Inching towards equality: LGBT rights and the limitations of law in Hong Kong

Joy L. Chia, Amy Barrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since legislative reform decriminalizing sodomy in 1991, the Hong Kong government has taken a passive role in the legal protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Instead, LGBT rights advancements have occurred primarily through the work of the courts, resulting in piecemeal progress that has left unaddressed the daily discrimination experienced by LGBT people in Hong Kong. Despite increased pressure in recent years for antidiscrimination legislation, the Hong Kong government continues to assert that self-regulation and public education, rather than legislation, are more appropriate tools for addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This Article argues that current LGBT rights debates are a useful site of inquiry for how different parties in Hong Kong understand and use “the idea of law” in the creation and articulation of their claims. Different stakeholders have all adopted and utilized different conceptualizations of the purpose and effects of LGBT-specific anti-discrimination legislation. These different conceptions of law also imply contested visions of Hong Kong’s identity, including how it should treat the marginalized and invisible minorities within society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-331
Number of pages29
JournalWilliam and Mary journal of women and the law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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