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EOC & GRC of CUHK Issue Statement Calling for the Introduction of Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status

09/03/2017

Today (9 March 2017), the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Gender Research Centre (GRC) of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong have issued a joint statement (Please refer to Appendix) calling on the Government to launch a public consultation and introduce legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status as soon as possible.

The statement was supported by 75 other organisations and academics. These are from a wide range of sectors in Hong Kong society including many large multinational financial institutions; diverse companies in the business sector ranging from one of largest global technology companies to a well known local retailer; a large chamber of commerce and regional trade organisation; local and international law firms and legal organisations; local and international non-governmental organisations working on protecting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people; several religious groups; and several academics working on LGBTI issues. The strong support from different sectors highlights the importance of legislation from several perspectives. For businesses, equality for all their employees helps to ensure that their employees can maximise their performance and the companies maximise their productivity. And from a human rights perspective, protection from discrimination is essential to ensure that LGBTI people are treated with dignity, respect and have a means of redress if they are discriminated against.

Over one year ago on 26 January 2016, the EOC and the GRC published the findings of the Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status, the most comprehensive research of its kind in Hong Kong. The study revealed two significant trends: first, LGBTI people in Hong Kong experience significant discrimination in all aspects of their public life, such as in employment, education and the provision of services; and second, public opinion had visibly shifted in favour of the passing of legislation to protect LGBTI persons from discrimination, with over 55% of the general public and over 90% of the young population (18 to 24 year olds) agreeing to the introduction of legislation.

As one year has passed since the study findings were published, and a new Chief Executive will assume office in July 2017, the EOC and the GRC wish to reiterate the urgency and opportunity to introduce legislation that will give appropriate protection from discrimination for the sexual minorities in Hong Kong.

Professor Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, Chairperson of the EOC, said: “Across the world, the plight of LGBTI communities has been gaining increasing concern. As human societies progress, governments are expected to take greater responsibility in defending the marginalised and vulnerable groups in society from discriminatory treatment. While the EOC welcomes the various initiatives in the 2017 Policy Agenda that aim to advance the rights of the sexual minorities in Hong Kong, we firmly believe that anti-discrimination legislation is needed to truly safeguard their rights to be treated equally. The findings of the study indicated that many developed societies, including some of those influenced by Chinese culture, already have anti-discrimination legislation for LGBTI people in various degrees.”

“Offering the LGBTI communities better legal protection is more than just a moral and human rights obligation. It also makes business sense, as emphasised by the groundbreaking support for legislation by many organisations working in the business sector. By promoting a diverse and inclusive culture, Hong Kong will be able to retain and draw in talent, which is important in the competitive global environment. In fact, many multi-national and some local corporations already have in place policies to give LGBTI employees equal employment opportunities and benefits. As home to the headquarters of a considerable number of international firms and being one of the world’s leading financial centres, Hong Kong should modernise its anti-discrimination legislation to ensure that it retains its position in Asia as a centre for business excellence, with equality for all employees at its core.”

“The EOC is eager to work collaboratively with the Government to eradicate discrimination in our city. We are willing to provide it with our expertise and assistance to promote inclusion for the LGBTI communities. We very much look forward to seeing the launch of public consultation on legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status soon.”

Professor SUEN Yiu-tung, Associate Director of the GRC, and Principal Investigator of the Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status said: “The Study has documented widespread evidence of discrimination against LGBTI people across many domains in Hong Kong, which is unacceptable in any place that respects and values diversity and inclusion. Such incidents of discrimination mean LGBTI people lose out on equal education and employment opportunities, they also mean Hong Kong policy and law makers are failing to protect the LGBTI population in Hong Kong which according to my recent research may amount to 400,000 people. In the long run, Hong Kong will discourage foreign LGBTI talents to come for work, and may experience brain drain when local LGBTI talents consider emigrating to other places in Asia and beyond where better protection of LGBTI rights is in place.”

“The Study has already provided a detailed comparative legal review and analysis of how Australia, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Macau Special Administrative Region, the Netherlands, and Taiwan have legislated against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Many aspects of the legislation were examined – the format or structure of the legislation, the ways in which the groups are defined, the forms of prohibited conduct, the domains in which the legislation operates, exemptions to prohibitions on discrimination, and the duties and powers of the equality or human rights bodies. There are practicable ways in which seemingly competing rights can be handled. The discussion needs to move from the question of whether or not there should be legislation on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status to that of how such legislation should be designed.”

“The GRC is ready to work with different stakeholders including the Hong Kong Government and the EOC, and provide our expertise and assistance to inform the debate, so that we can take forward the legislative process.”

Two representatives from organisations which supported the joint statement issued by the EOC and GRC also participated in today’s press conference to share their views on legislation. These were Ms Fern NGAI, Chief Executive Officer of Community Business and Mr Marc RUBINSTEIN, Co-founder and Co-Chair of Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Attorneys Network (HKGALA).

In addition to calling on the Government to introduce anti-discrimination legislation covering LGBTI rights, the statement is published at the same time as the report from the second international conference on LGBTI rights, jointly organised by the GRC, the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao and the German Consulate General Hong Kong on 28 November 2016. The conference focused on the relationship between LGBTI peoples’ rights to non-discrimination and freedom of religion. The EOC was the supporting organisation of the conference.

1. 'Sexual Orientation, Business, Policies and Politics Survey'. A territory-wide representative telephone survey was conducted from 3rd August to 15th August, 2016. A random sample of 1,013 people who are Chinese-speaking and aged 18 are above was successfully contacted. Data collected from the survey was weighted according to gender, age and educational level to align with the distribution of the Hong Kong population. The overall response rate for the survey was 38%, with a sampling error of ± 3.1% at 95% confidence level.

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For media enquiries, please contact Mr Sam HO (Tel: 2106-2187) or Ms Dorothy SAM (Tel: 2106-2124).

Equal Opportunities Commission
9 March 2017

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