The EOC Announces Findings of “Questionnaire Survey on Sexual Harassment for the Sports Sector”
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) announced today (14 May 2015) the findings of the “Questionnaire Survey on Sexual Harassment for the Sports Sector” conducted in end 2014, which showed that a large majority of the national sports associations (NSAs) in Hong Kong did not have an anti-sexual harassment policy, nor do they see the urgent need of formulating one.
The survey was conducted by the EOC, in partnership with the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC) in the form of anonymous self-reporting questionnaire. A total of 75 questionnaires were sent to NSAs in Hong Kong between late October and mid-December 2014. Altogether 57 questionnaires were returned, representing a response rate of 76%. Among these 57 NSAs, only seven (12%) reported that they had formulated an anti-sexual harassment policy, while 50 (88%) did not have one. When asked if there is any plan to formulate a policy, only eight of these 50 NSAs stated that they would consider doing so, while the rest claimed “staff members were not trained” and “there is no urgency” as the main reasons for not formulating a policy.
Dr. John TSE Wing-ling, Convenor of the EOC’s Policy and Research Committee, said, “The lack of awareness on the prevention of sexual harassment in the sports sector in Hong Kong is very disappointing. There is an absence of recognition and determination to tackle this serious issue. These NSAs organise sports activities for almost 300,000 individual members and over 3,000 affiliated clubs in Hong Kong. It is pertinent that they maintain a safe and respectful environment free of sexual harassment for the athletes, the coaches and staff members.”
Apart from the lack of policy, almost half (46%, 26) of the responding NSAs did not take any preventive measures against sexual harassment. For the 54% that did, the most common measure was requiring the prospective coaches to verify nil criminal conviction records against a specified list of sexual offences under the Sexual Conviction Record Check Scheme. Furthermore, only 37% (20) out of 55 responded NSAs provided coaches with code of ethics or guidelines on sexual harassment, while the remaining did not do so.
Even though some NSAs have already developed an anti-sexual harassment policy, the policy is very often not comprehensive. Many vital pieces of information are missing, such as listing the personnel designated for handling sexual harassment complaints, having a zero-tolerance policy and stating possible disciplinary actions. There is also insufficient effort to promulgate the policy, making it difficult for members to have access to such information.
Among the responding NSAs, only one reported a sexual harassment complaint in the preceding 12 months. The low awareness, coupled with the fear of repercussion and feelings of shame, might have discouraged affected persons from coming forward to report and lodge complaints of sexual harassment.
“The sports sector must take all reasonable and practicable steps to guard against the unlawful act,” Dr. Tse reiterated. “Sexual harassment can result in loss of enjoyment and reduced participation among the athletes. It can have serious negative impact on a person’s physical and psychological well-being, and legal liability for NSAs and sporting clubs. Back in 2007, the International Olympic Committee already adopted a ‘Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport’. It is recommended that NSAs in Hong Kong also adopt and publicise the Consensus Statement, as part of the effort to eliminate sexual harassment in the sports sector.”
In view of the survey findings, the EOC has already approached the SF&OC to co-organise an anti-sexual harassment seminar for the NSAs in the third quarter of 2015-16, and the SF&OC supported the proposal. The EOC is also planning to hold workshops for staff of the NSAs and their affiliated clubs to facilitate their formulation of an anti-sexual harassment policy.
“The EOC urges the Government – as the major source of funding for the sports sector – to work with relevant parties on raising greater awareness of preventing sexual harassment in the sector. In implementing the ‘Sports for All’ policy, the Government should consider incorporating anti-sexual harassment as one of the key elements, such that all members of the community, regardless of age, gender, ability, socio-economic status or ethnicity, can truly participate in sports in a safe and fair environment free from the threat of sexual harassment,” Dr. Tse said.
As defined by the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature directed at the victim, which a reasonable person would anticipate the victim to feel offended, humiliated or intimidated; or any conduct of a sexual nature which creates a hostile environment. Sexual harassment remains one of the most common types of complaints handled by the EOC under the SDO. In 2014, the Commission handled a total of 267 complaints under the SDO, of which 40% or 108 cases were related to sexual harassment.
For media enquiries, please contact Mr. Sam HO at 2106-2187.
Equal Opportunities Commission
14 May 2015