CHAPTER 6: MARRIAGE, FAMILY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OVERVIEW. Chapter 6: Marriage, Family and Domestic Violence

Chapter 6: Marriage, Family and Domestic Violence CHAPTER 6: MARRIAGE, FAMILY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OVERVIEW Owing to cultural and religious influenc...
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Chapter 6: Marriage, Family and Domestic Violence

CHAPTER 6: MARRIAGE, FAMILY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OVERVIEW Owing to cultural and religious influences, ethnic minorities tend to get married at a younger age compared to their local counterparts. Some of these marriages are ‘arranged marriages’ where the prospective bride and groom are introduced to each other with a view to future courtship on their parents’ or family’s recommendations, whilst others of these are reportedly, ‘forced marriages’ which entail subjecting a child’s free will and choice to their parents’ dictates. The adverse effects of early and forced marriages (prospects for senior secondary school and higher education, early maternal health and safety) are underresearched in Hong Kong. More crucially, the extent of the prevalence of these practices within the ethnic minority communities in Hong Kong is unknown. Also, teachers at schools give insufficient attention to these issues failing to notice the tell-tale signs when they arise (typically repeat and long absences until sudden and premature withdrawal from upper secondary school). Those who want to help unfortunately, know too little about cultural specificities to be able to help in any meaningful way without worsening the situation. Another prominent problem that may be characteristic of some ethnic minority families is ‘male dominance’ or the patriarchal figurehead of the family. Although this may be an attitude that is prevalent within many communities, it is distinctly prominent among ethnic minority communities in Hong Kong and is in fact, reinforced by the local culture, which places large value on filial piety. Ethnic minority women are particularly vulnerable to subjugation by their male counterparts in the family and clear inequality between men and women is apparent. Women and girls and almost always valued less than men and boys and this view, even in those ethnic minority communities where the women are more educated than their male counterparts. In some cases, women are victims of violence particularly when there are disputes, suspicions of disloyalty or what is perceived to be a violation of societal, cultural or religious codes. The strong sense of community and family unity that binds ethnic minority families together also characterizes the loyal relationship between ethnic minority parents and their children. Some parents, however, have a weak sense of what child protection entails. There is no data available for cohabiting partners or LGBT families in the ethnic minority population. This does not mean that such family units are not living together. This gap and the increasing tendency of couples to live out of marriage requires that the Government document such data. Our definition of marriage below is only restricted to heterosexual marriage (as per the Hong Kong Population Census).

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Chapter 6: Marriage, Family and Domestic Violence

A. General Statistics A1. Marital Status and Age According to the 2011 Population Census1, there were 58.3% of ethnic minorities whose status was “now married,” which was comparable to the 57.7% of their Chinese counterparts. Table 6.1 below shows the marital status of ethnic minorities and that of the whole population aged 15 and over in Hong Kong in 2011.

Table 6.1 Marital status of ethnic minorities and that of the whole population aged 15 and over in Hong Kong in 2011

Ethnic Minorities Whole Population

Never Married 34.1%

Now Married 58.3%












Source: Census Thematic Report, Table 4.1 A further breakdown by ethnicity shows that the percentage of “now married” is higher if we focus only on ethnic minorities. The percentage of “widowed/divorced/separated” is much lower than the corresponding category for the whole of Hong Kong’s population. Of particular significance is the very low percentage of Pakistani population that is listed as widowed, divorced or separated (2.1% compared to 10.7% of the whole population). The latter difference suggests that ethnic minority couples are either younger (explains low percentage of “widowed”) or are able to maintain stable and long-lasting relationships. Table 6.2 below shows the percentage of “now married” and “widowed/divorced/separated” among South/ South-East Asians and that among the whole population aged 15 and over in Hong Kong in 2011.

Table 6.2 Percentage of “Now Married” and “Widowed/Divorced/Separated” Persons of South/ South-East Asian Background Aged 15 and Above Compared to the General Population in Hong Kong in 2011 Ethnicity

Now Married

Indonesian Filipino Indian Nepalese Pakistani Whole population of Hong Kong

52.7% 54.7% 73.9% 74.3% 75.7% 57.7%

Widowed/ Divorced/ Separated 6.9% 9.4% 4.2% 4.6% 2.1% 10.7% Source: Census Thematic Report, Table 4.1

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Chapter 6: Marriage, Family and Domestic Violence Furthermore, given that ethnic minorities have a much younger median age than that of the whole population,2 the higher percentage of persons “now married” also indicates that ethnic minorities tend to marry at a younger age than local Chinese. This is consistent with the aforementioned inference that ethnic minority married couples tend to be younger.

A2. Family Size and Characteristics Although household size does not necessarily equate family size, the following table suggests a direct correlation between the two. Table 6.3 illustrates that with the exception of Indonesian households, a larger proportion of EM households has 4 persons or above compared to households of the general population3. Table 6.3 below shows the total number of domestic households among the 6 minority groups with a breakdown by ethnicity and household size in 2011.

Table 6.3 Total Number of Domestic Households Among the 6 Minority Groups Disaggregated by Ethnicity and Household size in 2011 Number of domestic households by ethnicity and by household size in 2011 1 person 2 persons 3 persons 4 persons Total or above Pakistani Nepalese Indian Indonesian Filipino Thai Whole Population

576 (12.5%) 546 (10.9)

618 (13.4%) 952 (19.0%)

570 (12.4%) 1,277 (25.5%)

2,840 (61.7%) 2,227 (44.5%)

4,604 (100%) 5,002 (100%)

1,657 (17.7%) 485 (20.0%)

2,146 (23.0%) 889 (36.6%)

2,274 (24.3%) 455 (18.8%)

3,262 (34.9%) 597 (24.6%)

9,339 (100%) 2,426 (100%)

1,535 (19.6%) 800 (11.3%)

2,120 (27.1%) 1,911 (26.9%)

1,713 (21.9%) 1,791 (25.2%)

2,452 (31.4%) 2,605 (36.7%)

7,820 (100%) 7,107 (100%)

422,676 (17.9%)

615,762 613,468 715,296 2,367,202 (26.0%) (25.9%) (30.2%) (100%) Source: HKCSS Poverty Situation of South and Southeast Asians

Most ethnic minorities live in nuclear family households composed of a [married] couple with unmarried children. The proportion of such households is especially high among the Pakistani community, at 62%. Except for the Indonesian community, the proportion of households with a lone parent and unmarried children is smaller than that of the whole population. This in part suggests that ethnic minorities’ children are less likely to face issues arising from single-parent upbringing compared to the general population as a whole. Table 6.4 below shows the household arrangements for different ethnic groups in Hong Kong in 2011, as compared against that of whole population of Hong Kong.

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Chapter 6: Marriage, Family and Domestic Violence

Table 6.4 Household Arrangements for Different Ethnic Groups in Hong Kong Compared to the General Population in Hong Kong in 2011 Ethnicity

Indonesian Filipino Indian Pakistani Nepalese


Whole Populati on of Hong Kong

Households composed of a couple








Households composed of a couple and unmarried children








Households composed of lone parents and unmarried children








Households composed of couple and at least one of their parents








Households composed of couple, at least one of their parents and their unmarried children








Households composed of other relationship combinations








Source: Thematic Report, Table 7.3

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Chapter 6: Marriage, Family and Domestic Violence

B. Marriage B1. Early and Arranged Marriage Early and arranged marriage is a common phenomenon among South Asians, such as Pakistanis, Indians and Nepalese. Such a practice is influenced by social, cultural and religious traditions. In addition, some ethnic minority parents see marriage as a way out of poverty. They do so by giving their daughter away in marriage in order to lessen the family’s financial burden, and with the hope that the girl will be supported in the new family.4 At the same time, even amongst the most well to do ethnic minority families in Hong Kong, however, there continues to be a widespread practice of taking dowry from the bride’s family in exchange for the wedding vows. A poor dower or one which does not meet with expectations of the groom’s family can easily attract abuse, verbal and physical and oftentimes, humiliation. This practice and the often-outlandish expectations of dowry lead to unhappy family life, giving rise to disharmony and disputes. Dowry giving in the case of getting a daughter married is clear evidence of the inherent inequality between the girl and boy child. There is an increasingly greying line between arranged marriages and forced marriages in some ethnic minority communities. Forced marriages involve coercion. , In addition, arranging such marriages for teenagers whilst they are still in school, is unlawful under Hong Kong law and gives rise to complex issues impacting the growth and development of young people, particularly for young girls who end up as young mothers when they marry early. For example, some ethnic minority youth, especially girls, typically face discontinuation of education because of their parents’ traditional belief that education is unnecessary for girls.5 Their parents expect them to stay home, learn about managing a household and, at an age deemed appropriate by her family, be coerced to marry.

B2. Male Dominance Many ethnic minorities subscribe to the traditional belief that women are subordinate to men, in all relationships including the marital relationship. There is typically a hierarchical chain of command: The senior-most male at the head of the family

Remainder of the men in the Household (by descending seniority)

The women (by descending seniority of their spouses) Hence, when a divergence of views occurs, which mostly arises in the context of financial security and children’s marriage affairs, women often find themselves in a vulnerable 5 © Puja Kapai All Rights Reserved

Chapter 6: Marriage, Family and Domestic Violence position and even end up as victims of domestic violence.6 Issues of domestic violence faced by ethnic minority women are discussed in more detail in Part D.

C. Family C.1 Dependency Ratios7 Table 6.5 Population excluding FDHs, by ethnicity and dependency ratios, in 2011 Age Ethnicity

Dependency Ratios (Excluding Foreign Domestic Helpers),2011 Child Dependency Ratio 24 11 31 29 70

Old Age Total Dependency Ratio Dependency Ratio

Filipino 4 28 Indonesian 12 23 Indian 10 41 Nepalese 3 32 Pakistani 6 75 Total for Hong 16 19 35 Kong population Source: Numbers calculated based on figures generated for EM population by age using the Census and Statistics Department Interactive Data Dissemination Service The dependency ratio is one way of looking at the economic burden of children, and elderly individuals, on the current productive population.

Child Dependency Ratio

Number of People Age