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EOC Welcomes Passage of Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill 2014

03/12/2014

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) welcomes the passage of the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill 2014 in the Legislative Council today (3 December). With the passage of the Bill, sexual harassment by customers against providers or prospective providers of goods, facilities or services – even if the act occurs on local ships and aircraft outside Hong Kong – will become unlawful. The Amendment Bill will become effective on the day of gazettal on 12 December 2014.

“The amendment to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance or SDO represents a major step forward to combat sexual harassment, and sends a clear message to the public that sexual harassment is not acceptable and has no place in the society,” said Dr York CHOW, Chairperson of the EOC. “We are very pleased that the EOC’s recommendation on extending the SDO to protect providers of goods, facilities or services has been accepted by the Government and the legislature. The enhanced legislation will certainly bring greater protection to workers in the service industries, especially those in frontline positions, whose frequent contact with customers make them more vulnerable to sexual harassment.”

As defined by the SDO, sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature directed at the victim, in circumstances in which a reasonable person would have anticipated that the victim would feel offended, humiliated or intimidated; or any conduct of a sexual nature creating a hostile or intimidating environment for the victim, such as displaying pornographic materials or telling sexual jokes. The SDO provides protection against sexual harassment in specified fields, such as in employment and educational establishments, and before the present amendment, against sexual harassment of customers by goods, facilities or services providers, but not vice versa.

According to various surveys by the EOC, sexual harassment remains a serious issue in the workplace. In May 2014, the EOC announced the findings of the “Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in Employment – Questionnaire Survey for Workers of Service Industries”, which showed that almost one-fifth or 19% of the responding service industry workers alleged to have been sexually harassed at work. Furthermore, in the findings of the “Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in Employment – Questionnaire Survey for Flight Attendants” released in February 2014, 27% of the responding flight attendants alleged that they had experienced sexual harassment while on duty in flight, with the most common – almost 60% – of the harassers being customers.

“The amended Ordinance serves as an important tool to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace and its consequential negative impact on staff productivity and organisational effectiveness,” Dr CHOW said. “To ensure protection for flight attendants and ship crew while they are at work, the enhanced Ordinance will also apply to sexual harassment acts happened on board Hong Kong-registered ships and aircraft, even when they are outside the HKSAR.”

“The EOC has already laid the groundwork to ensure the smooth implementation of the amended Ordinance,” Dr CHOW remarked. “Noting that education is the best preventive tool to eliminate sexual harassment, we will further step up our public education and publicity efforts to enhance awareness and understanding of the amended legislation, such as strengthening online resources, updating pamphlets and booklets, and conducting briefings and seminars for relevant parties. We will certainly continue to work closely with our stakeholders to publicise widely the importance of preventing sexual harassment.”
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For media enquiries, please contact Ms. Mariana LAW at 2106-2226.



Equal Opportunities Commission
3 December 2014

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