About Sexual Harassment

Say "No" to Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is not a joke.

Whether intended or unintended, sexual harassment has a serious negative impact on individuals as well as organisations.

On an individual, affecting the person’s physical and psychological well-being, interpersonal relationships, and educational or career development. Apart from the individual impact, sexual harassment can also have an adverse effect on an organisation. On top of low staff morale that leads to decreased productivity, a company may face lawsuits as a result of sexual harassment conducted by its employees.

This page aims at providing the public with all you need to know about sexual harassment, to help society gain a better understanding of such behaviour and the legal protection available, as well as channels for those whom are impacted to take necessary precautionary measures.

The Equal Opportunities Commission is committed to working with all sectors of the community to create a safe and harassment-free environment, in which all individuals enjoy equality of opportunities, dignity and rights.

Let’s work together and put an end to sexual harassment!

What is sexual harassment?

The Sex Discrimination Ordinance (“SDO”) defines two forms of sexual harassment:

1. Targeting a person

Engaging in the conduct of a sexual nature to a person, where the conduct:

  • is unwelcome to that person;
  • a reasonable third person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct; and
  • may include but is not limited to, making a sexual advance or a request for sexual favours to that person.

2. Without a specific target

Engaging in the conduct of a sexual nature, where the conduct:

  • does not have to be directed at a person;
  • can be committed alone or together with others; and
  • creates a hostile or intimidating environment for another person.

Examples of Sexual Harassment Targeting a Specific Person

  • Unwelcome physical contact or actions toward a colleague (for example, deliberately rubbing up against someone’s body, kissing, hugging, etc.)
  • Make unwelcome sexual advances to a classmate
  • Restaurant diner comments on the waiter’s figure
  • Students constantly ask or insinuate about the teacher’s sex life
  • Volunteer emails some objectionable and sexually suggestive material to an agency staff
  • Take secret photos of a client’s breasts and private parts with a mobile phone

Examples of Creating a Sexually Hostile or Intimidating Environment

  • Interns and colleagues chatted about dirty jokes in the company lobby
  • Company employees browse pornographic websites in the office
  • Student uses indecent photos as computer desktop background on campus
  • Volunteer talks about personal sex life in an agency group chat

Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, is sexual harassment prohibited under all environments?

No, sections on sexual harassment only apply to key areas of public life, such as: 

  • Employment
    For example, colleagues (including volunteers and interns) in the same office or a common workplace, applicants, contractual workers, foreign domestic helpers, etc
  • Education
    Between staff and students, among students, etc.
  • Provision of goods, services, or facilities
    Between providers and users, for example, shopkeepers and customers, etc.
  • Participation in clubs
    For example between coaches and apprentices, etc.
  • Disposal or management of premises
    Between owners of premises and tenants or occupants.

Sexual harassment is unlawful when it occurs in any of these areas and between persons in any of the relationships covered by the law.

What is not considered as sexual harassment?

Interaction of a sexual nature, flirtation, attraction or friendship which is invited, mutual, consensual and reciprocated is not sexual harassment.

Does sexual harassment only happen to female?

No, sexual harassment happens regardless of gender.

In what forms does sexual harassment usually take place?

Sexual harassment can involve physical, visual, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature which is uninvited and unwelcome.

What can you do if you are sexually harassed?

  1. Speak up and say “no” to the harasser.
  2. Keep a written record of the incidents, including the dates, time, location, nature (what the harasser has said or done) and your response and feelings, etc.
  3. Report the incident to your supervisor / school if it happened at your workplace / on campus.
  4. File a written complaint with the EOC or institute legal proceedings at the District Court.
  5. Seek help from related organisations.