Thursday, September 14, 2017

Need for More Sensitivity When Reporting on Domestic Violence in Hong Kong (Puja Kapai)

Puja Kapai, Yenni Kwok, Linda To, Shirley Kong
Hong Kong Free Press
14 September 2017
A murder-suicide case shocked Hong Kong last week. Last Monday, a man allegedly killed his wife at a luxury apartment building in Yau Ma Tei before taking his own life. The police said the husband had moved out of their home on Friday after the wife discovered he had been cheating and demanded a divorce.
     Domestic violence in the city remains one of Hong Kong’s most neglected problems and unfortunately, also its most hidden. Yet, the media coverage of the murder-suicide case highlights a critical lack of understanding about the issue. As the horrific news about the young couple, who were both civil servants, gripped the city, reports speculated that the act of violence was the inevitable consequence of the wife earning a higher salary than the husband.
     The front-page story of Headline Daily on Tuesday, 5 September 2017, was titled: “Wife’s salary is more than double her husband’s. Wife in a higher position is a recipe for a tragedy.” News website HK01.com also linked the murder-suicide to the wife’s high salary. In a story published on 4 September, it quoted Szeto Hon-ming, a senior social worker, who said a wife shouldn’t “injure the pride” of the husband. He also advised wives who earned more than their husband not to use “terms that may undermine men’s self-esteem.”
     Media ethics exact a higher standard of reporting than what is sadly on display from the headlines and stories which have emerged over the course of the week. The reports have irresponsibly showcased and perpetuated a sexist narrative which blames the victim.
     Although the homicide rate in Hong Kong remains comparatively low given the size of our population, the number of domestic murder-suicides among homicides features prominently. This is no cause for comfort but rather, calls for targeted approaches for prevention by frontline personnel who need to understand that such incidents are often the breaking point in a relationship likely to have been peppered by escalating violence earlier on. The majority of the victims are women, and the perpetrators are usually their partners or former partners. Hong Kong — along with Japan — has the highest rate of female homicide victims in the world: women comprise 52.9 per cent of the total homicide victims in these two jurisdictions, followed by South Korea at 52.5 per cent... Click here to read the full article.

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