1. EOC’s study finds female politicians bogged down by family responsibility and gender stereotypes

Illustrated image of a woman and man, both facing a door a few levels above them. There is a staircase before the man, but the woman has no way to climb up.
Over half of the Hong Kong public believes women have a harder time climbing the political ladder because of domestic responsibilities and traditional attitudes about gender roles, according to a new study published by the EOC on 7 October 2020.

The finding came as recent years saw a flattening growth in the percentage of female Government officials and continued under-representation of women in the Legislative Council and District Councils. Only 17.1% of lawmakers elected in 2016 and 19.5% of candidates who won in the 2019 District Council elections were women.

Discrepancies between the demographic makeup of the political sphere and that of the populace could lead to policies that are insensitive towards the needs of a diverse community.

Commissioned by the EOC to the Gender Research Centre, Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the study sought to identify if there is a gendered aspect to the public’s perception of the qualities desired in political leaders and hear from politicians themselves about the obstacles they face in pursuing leadership roles.

A telephone survey of 1,003 respondents aged 15 or above was conducted based on random sampling, while 383 responses were received for a separate online survey targeting Government officials, members of advisory and statutory bodies, legislators, district councillors, as well as leaders of political parties and NGOs. Further in-depth interviews were held with 32 political leaders, including both men and women. 

Although over 60% of the public agreed men and women have equally good leadership qualities, 29.1% believed men are more “visionary”. An even more significant number said men were more capable in working on issues related to security (71.6%) and the economy, finance and trade (51.9%), suggesting possible unconscious gender bias in public perceptions of political leaders. 

Traditional views about gender roles meant that women are often expected to be the carer in their households. Indeed, many of the women interviewed in the study felt torn between their work and family, a juggle that is made worse by the irregular hours of the job and holds them back from advancing in their career. They also expressed frustration at a disproportionate attention from the media and the public to their bodies and physical appearance that shows little care for their ability and vision. 

While the respondents were divided about the introduction of gender quota systems to address the problem of under-representation, the report recommends that voluntary targets should be adopted, along with family-friendly policies, such as flexi-time, quarter-day leave and extended parental leave. These should go hand in hand with stronger efforts in public education to tackle sexist and stereotypical thinking.

Click the links below to learn more.

Read the press release
Download the report
Findings at a glance

  1. Holes in carer support system need immediate plugging

Illustrated image of a woman carer crying and burying her face in her hands
The EOC made a submission to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Welfare Services last month, as the panel held a special meeting to discuss support for carers and provision of residential care services for persons with disabilities (PWDs), following a tragic incident where a mother allegedly strangled her 21-year-old son who had intellectual disability.

Although Government statistics shows that nearly 204,000 PWDs and over 175,000 persons with chronic diseases have someone to take care of their day-to-day living, the number of carers in Hong Kong is likely to be higher, as those looking after persons with intellectual impairment have not been included in the figures. There is, therefore, a need for a more holistic count of the carers in Hong Kong, which would enable a more accurate assessment of their needs and the formulation of more effective policies.

Data and research aside, the EOC recommended that the Government should enhance the capacity of the respite care services which are currently over-subscribed. Reference could be made to overseas jurisdictions where at-home carers are entitled by law to a prescribed period of respite care service – as long as 84 days in Japan and 63 in Australia – while care facilities or professional caregivers take their place on a temporary basis, giving them a timeout to destress. In Hong Kong, the scarcity of land and the shortage of staff in healthcare institutions mean that the Government must also think outside the box to fill the gap, for example by training people in the neighbourhood where the PWD or elder lives. 

In relation to the “Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Low-income Carers of Persons with Disabilities” and the “Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Carers of Elderly Persons from Low-income Families”, the EOC called on the Government to consider: (i) regularising the schemes; (ii) easing the restriction on recipients of the Old Age Living Allowance – many of whom are carers themselves – from benefiting from the schemes; and (iii) reviewing the assumption that recipients of the Disability Allowance cannot be  “fit and capable” carers and thus are not entitled to allowances under the schemes.

The EOC also made a series of recommendations aimed at improving the service quality of residential care homes. For more details, please click the link below.

Read the EOC’s submission

  1. EOC responds to consultation on criminalisation of voyeurism and related offences

Illustrated image of a pair of peeping eyes
In response to the Security Bureau’s consultation on the proposal to introduce “offences of voyeurism, intimate prying, non-consensual photography of intimate parts, and related offences”, the EOC submitted a paper to the Government last week, sharing views and recommendations in line with the Commission’s role in eliminating sexual harassment and promoting gender equality.

The EOC is broadly in favour of the proposal. Owing to wider adoption of smartphones and increased availability of hidden cameras, non-consensual photography of intimate parts, such as upskirting, has become more rampant than ever. Yet, the courts have ruled that the existing offence of obtaining “access to a computer with dishonest or criminal intent”, a charge commonly used in prosecutions against people who engaged in voyeurism or upskirting, is not applicable when the person is only using his or her device. Because of the legal gap thus created, introducing the proposed offences is both timely and necessary in deterring potential offenders and serving justice for victims.

The proposal also floated a plan to criminalise “distribution of surreptitious intimate images and non-consensual distribution of intimate images”, in light of the growing trends of revenge porn and extortion using sexual images. Again, the EOC agrees in principle with the criminalisation of acts involving image-based sexual violence, but the provisions need to be precise and carefully worded, so that  innocuous acts, such as the distribution of intimate images among relevant staff as part of an ongoing investigation by an organisation, would not be unintentionally criminalised.

In addition, the EOC stressed that any new offences introduced should avoid distinctions based on gender or sexual orientation as far as possible. While the guiding principle of gender neutrality was espoused by the Law Reform Commission, the EOC also believes that everyone in society should be protected from sex crimes regardless of their  sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

The EOC has also taken this opportunity to express its views for potentially reviewing and expanding the scope of the decade-old Sexual Conviction Record Check Scheme, in order to better protect different vulnerable groups.

Learn more about the EOC’s position by clicking the link below.

Read the EOC’s submission

  1. EOC Chairperson hears from representatives from ethnic minority groups on COVID challenges

Photo of EOC Chairperson, Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin talking to representatives of ethnic minority communities online
In a series of online meetings last month, EOC Chairperson, Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin reached out to over 10 organisations serving ethnic minority communities in Hong Kong, discussing the challenges they face amid the third wave of COVID-19 infections and the support the EOC could give.

Mr Chu heard from representatives of the African, Filipino, Indonesian, Sri Lankan and Sikh communities living in the city. Some of the shared challenges include layoffs in the service industry, access to information about the Government’s relief schemes, and worsening mental health among those who assume care-giving responsibilities in the household.

Some communities have experienced other and more specific challenges. Representatives of the African community reported difficulties in opening bank accounts due to their nationality, while hostile attitudes from service providers are another source of woes for Indonesian residents. Also, some foreign domestic workers (FDWs) from Sri Lanka who had completed their contracts were stranded in Hong Kong.

The EOC is embarking on a number of follow-up actions, including connecting representatives of FDWs with NGOs experienced in assisting with employment and immigration matters, and providing information on the Government’s welfare measures designed to help deprived families weather through the pandemic. The EOC has also submitted recommendations to the Government for the Policy Address in relation to COVID-19 relief support for ethnic minority communities. Click the link below for more details.

Read the EOC’s submission