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Legal definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual Discrimination Ordinance:
Sexual Harassment [Part I Section 2(5)]

According to the legal definitions under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), “sexual harassment” occurs when:
  • any person
    • makes unwelcome sexual advances, or unwelcome request for sexual favors, to another person; or
    • engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to that other person;
    in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that that other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated; or
  • any person, either alone or together with other persons, engages in a conduct of a sexual nature which creates a hostile or intimidating environment for another person.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
  • Repeated attempts to make a date, despite being told "NO" each time
  • Comments with sexual innuendoes and suggestive or insulting sounds
  • Relentless humour and jokes about sex or gender in general
  • Sexual propositions or other pressure for sex
  • Implied or overt threats for sex
  • Obscene gestures or inappropriate touching (e.g. patting, touching, kissing or pinching)
  • Persistent phone calls or letters asking for a personal sexual relationship
  • Displaying sexually obscene or suggestive photographs or literature
  • Sexual assault or forced sexual intercourse (rape)
What can you do if you are sexually harassed?

Sexual harassment is illegal. Ignoring sexual harassment does not make it go away, but may make it worse because the harasser may misinterpret no response as approval of the behaviour. There are informal and formal strategies that can be done.

  • Speak up at the time. Tell the harasser that his/her behaviour is unwanted and has to stop
  • Keep a written record of the incidents, including dates, time, places, presence of any witnesses, nature of the harassment (what the harasser said and did) and own responses
  • Tell someone you trust
  • Identify an advocate or counsellor who can provide emotional support and information about informal and formal institutional procedures
  • Write a letter/ note to harasser
  • Report it officially
  • Complain to the Equal Opportunities Commission
  • Contact the police and/ or file a lawsuit
Assistance offered by EOC

Persons who have been sexually harassed may approach the EOC where assistance as follows will be offered: 

  • upon receipt of a written complaint, the EOC will investigate into the matter and endeavour to effect a settlement by conciliation
  • by notice to request persons concerned including respondent(s) and witness(es) to give information for investigation purpose
  • upon completion of investigation, arrange conciliation meeting between the complainant and the respondent to effect a settlement
  • the complainant may request the EOC to provide assistance in case conciliation fails
    The forms of assistance include:
    - giving advice
    - arranging for representation by solicitor or counsel
    - any other form of assistance the EOC considers appropriate
  • to assist a complainant to formulate and present his/ her case with the Court in the most effective manner, the EOC may prescribe the form by which the aggrieved person may question the respondent for relevant matter and the form by which the respondent may wish to reply. The question and reply are in general admissible in Court and the Court may draw adverse inference if the respondent without reasonable excuse omits to reply or the reply is evasive or equivocal
  • all information would be treated in strict confidence