Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 198


Better sex education part of solution to gender-based violence, writes EOC Chairperson ahead of IDEVAW

On the 25th of November every year, the world observes the International Day on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW), sending out a sombering reminder of the abuse and debasement women continue to suffer on a daily basis. According to the United Nations, one in every three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.

Behind its façade of peace and prosperity, our city is plagued by gender-based violence in more places than we may think. On 24 November 2018, Prof Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, Chairperson of the EOC, published an article in the Hong Kong Economic Journal detailing this stark reality: every year, the Social Welfare Department receives approximately 3,000 reports of new cases of violence against spouses; yet, nearly 60% of female victims of domestic violence stay around with their abusive partners as they do not wish to abandon their children. What’s more, a 2014 study by the EOC found out that around 17% of employees in Hong Kong had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Women living on the margins of our society – foreign domestic workers and lesbian couples, for instance – find themselves in an even more vulnerable position, as language barriers, social stigma and other factors curtail access to support services.

“To root out violence against women in the longer term, we must help children appreciate the importance of gender equality and bodily automony at an early age,” wrote Prof Chan. “Indeed, sex education in Hong Kong has long come under attack for its biological focus; as the Education Bureau (EDB) prepares to review the local sex education curriculum, the EOC has submitted a comprehensive list of recommendations on the overhaul, such as renaming the subject as ‘sexuality and relationship education’, spelling out its objectives, stipulating dedicated lessons hours, and incorporating themes of LGBTI inclusion into the curriculum. We earnestly hope the Government will give them due consideration and share our commitment to creating an equal and inclusive society free from prejudice and harassment.”