A government official in Hong Kong is facing severe criticism after alleging that women who drink alcohol are liable to get raped.
While discussing rising rates of crime and sexual violence in the city-state, Secretary for Security Lai Tung Kwok commented on Tuesday that women should "not drink too much" if they wished to avoid being raped, reported Agence France Presse.
Noting that incidents of rape spiked by 60 percent in the first quarter of the year over the year-ago period, Lai said: "All of these [rape] cases happened between those who know each other. They are either friends, close friends or they just met a few hours [before]. Some of these cases also involved the victims being raped after drinking quite a lot of alcohol. So I would appeal that young ladies should not drink too much.”
Outraged local residents vented their frustration at the minister’s comments on Facebook and Twitter.
“Secretary for Security advises that ’young ladies not drink too much’ after rise in rapes. Or, gosh, maybe tell men not to rape?” wrote a Hong Kong-based Twitter user named “Miss O’Kistic.”
Noreen Mir, a Facebook user, commented on the account of SlutWalk Hong Kong: “Doesn’t matter if the woman has been drinking or dressing ’provocatively’. Rape and Sexual Violence against Women are never ok!!
Another user angrily declared: “Just because she’s drunk doesn’t mean she wants to f_k.”
Women's rights activists have demanded Lai retract his statements.
“The underreporting of rape in Hong Kong is already very high and some of the reason is women feel that people will put all the blame on them,” Linda Wong, executive director of Hong Kong’s Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, told AFP.
Wong told the Wall Street Journal: “People aren’t being raped because they’re drunk or wear a sexy dress.”
Another rights campaigner, Liu Si-si, director of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centers, blasted Lai and said his comments were “not the message that the government should be sending out.”
“The remarks [Lai] made are proof of a culture that blames victims for doing something ‘wrong,’ like drinking.”
For all of 2012, 121 cases of rape were recorded in Hong Kong, a 33 percent jump from 2011.
But activists believe these numbers do not reflect reality.
“There’s a lot of stigma given to the victims,” Liu told the Wall Street Journal.
“Maybe [Lai] has good intentions, and he did not intend to blame the women or be unfriendly to them. But if he continues to say things like this, I worry women will be less likely to report crimes because they’ll be worried about being blamed.”
RainLily, a Hong Kong rape crisis center and NGO, estimates that a woman is raped in Hong Kong every eight hours, which means the actual number of victims totals more than 1,000, almost 10 times last year’s reported incidents.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.