The EOC announces findings of “Sexual Harassment – Questionnaire Survey for Education Sector”
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) today (Thursday, 25 April 2013) announced the findings of the “Sexual Harassment – Questionnaire Survey for Education Sector” (the Survey), which was conducted in partnership with the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) and Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (HKFEW) in March 2013. A total of 321 completed questionnaires were received for this survey from primary and secondary schools across the territories as well as local tertiary institutions.
The Survey found that nearly half of the respondents (47%) have not adopted a policy statement on sexual harassment, with the most common reason being the staff’s lack of training to formulate the related policy statement (61%) and the perception that there is no urgency for such an action (45%). Of the schools without a policy statement on sexual harassment, less than one-third (31%) said they intend to articulate such a statement in 2013.
The Survey revealed that for many schools who have adopted a policy statement on sexual harassment, the policy statement is neither in-depth nor comprehensive. While the majority of the policy statements on sexual harassment include “a clear statement that sexual harassment will not be tolerated” (96%) and “the options available for dealing with sexual harassment complaints formally” (94%), far fewer offer anti-sexual discrimination training to staff (34%) or students (45%). The Survey also identified other limitations in the implementation of the policy statement, such as communication of the policy and relevant training. For instance, only 14% of respondents periodically publish the policy on sexual harassment in school newspapers and new students’ orientation sessions.
The Survey proposed recommendations for schools’ action, including urging all schools to formulate and implement an anti-sexual harassment policy; proper training for school staff in the formulation of such a policy; and providing sufficient information on anti-sexual harassment to all staff and students at a regular interval. To facilitate schools to adopt an anti-sexual harassment policy, the EOC is planning to conduct training on formulating such a policy for school principals and teachers in the second half of 2013.
Dr. John TSE Wing-ling, Convenor of the EOC’s Policy and Research Committee, said, “Sexual harassment can have long-lasting negative consequences on the victim’s health as well as institutional morale and image. This Survey points out that this remains a critical issue in schools, which is compounded by the absence of clearly articulated policies and practices to prevent and address such unlawful acts.”
“Moreover, the Survey highlights the importance of having a comprehensive anti-sexual harassment policy in encouraging students and staff to report sexual harassment cases and seek necessary support. Such a policy, alongside concrete implementation measures, would also demonstrate that the school and its management take their duty to tackle this matter seriously. The EOC is committed to helping educational institutions face this issue and build a safe environment for work and learning, free from sexual harassment,” added Dr. Tse.
In March 2013, the EOC released the findings of the “Study on Students’ Sexual Attitudes and Views on Sexual Harassment”, conducted by the Department of Special Education and Counseling of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, which revealed that, over the past year, 50% of the interviewed students had experienced various forms of sexual harassment such as sexual jokes, sexual propositions, indecent gestures, inappropriate touching and being shown pornography. Of the students who had experienced sexual harassment, 49% said it occurred at school including on university campus; 97% indicated that the harassers were their “boy/girl friends” (referring to non consensual conduct of a sexual nature), while a smaller percentage said the perpetrators were classmates (21%) or friends (14%). Worryingly, upon encountering sexual harassment, 58% of the students chose to “keep silent”, even though many expressed that the experience made them feel angry (40%), scared (38%), and unable to relate well to others (36%).
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Equal Opportunities Commission
25 April 2013