Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 189


EOC Chairperson calls on churches to take active steps to address sexual harassment

Just last month, the Hong Kong Christian Council unearthed an inconvenient truth with a study on sexual harassment in Hong Kong churches: more than half of the 55 respondents have been sexually harassed or assaulted by a church leader or employee; near one-fifth were forced to engage in sexual activity. The appalling findings fuelled an already simmering outcry over unchecked sexual aggression in God’s backyard, following recent media reports of church management brushing off complaints from victims and demanding silence.

In response, Prof Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, Chairperson of the EOC, published an article in Stand News, Inmedia and Sing Tao Daily on 27 June and in Hong Kong Free Press on 3 July. “Church cultures tend to operate along strict hierarchies while calling on followers to be loving, understanding and forgiving,” Prof Chan wrote. “Add to this all the taboo, conservatism and negativity surrounding sex – both in churches and our society at large – and a horribly wrong message may be sent to victims of sexual abuse, that is, by coming forward and speaking out, they would tear the congregation apart and give their church a bad name.”

The EOC has taken the initiative to reach out to related Christian umbrella organisations and proposed to assist them in establishing anti-sexual harassment policies and complaint-handling mechanisms. Given that there are nearly 1,300 churches in Hong Kong with over 300,000 congregants, any further delay in addressing the issue of sexual harassment would expose a sizeable population to continued, unnecessary risk. Ensuring that church-going remains a spiritually nourishing experience instead of an intimidating ordeal is not the work of God, but a responsibility of all church leaders.