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The EOC expresses concerns about the latest media reports on sexual assault cases in a secondary school

06/09/2017

 

With regard to recent media reports that two secondary girl students who alleged that they were sexually assaulted by a male teacher, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has issued today (5 September 2017) the following statement:

The EOC is highly concerned about the incident which has been widely reported by the media. The EOC Chairperson, Professor Alfred CHAN, said, “The Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) protects students against sexual harassment by teachers and fellow students. Committing indecent assault may lead to civil liability and even criminal prosecution. It is not only a criminal offence, but also an unlawful sexual harassment act under the SDO. The EOC appeals to the aggrieved persons of sexual assault to file complaints to the EOC to seek redress for their losses, while they report their cases to the police.”

The definition of sexual harassment under the SDO is wide. Any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that would have been anticipated to be offensive, humiliating or intimidating may constitute unlawful sexual harassment. Examples of sexual harassment include unwelcome physical contact, sexual attention, sexual comments or unwelcome requests for sex, as well as sexual assault.

Sexual harassment is an unlawful act. In some instances, conducts such as sexual assault, stalking, nuisance calls, etc may have criminal consequences. If anyone has been sexually harassed in a school, he/she may lodge a complaint to the school and to the EOC. If the cases involved are criminal offences, the aggrieved persons should report the cases to the police. Reporting to the police does not prejudice the aggrieved person in any way, including the assistance provided to the aggrieved persons by the EOC or establishing a civil claim.

Filing a complaint to the EOC will not only facilitate redress, but also help stop the occurrence of sexual harassment and avoid others from being subjected to sexual harassment.

There is a time bar for lodging a sexual harassment complaint with the EOC or to take legal action. If the aggrieved person intends to lodge a complaint with the EOC, he/she should take action within 12 months after the incident. Nonetheless, the EOC may exercise its discretion to consider those complaints beyond the time bar for lodging complaints.

The EOC suggests that if students feel being sexually harassed, he/she may adopt the following approaches:

● Speak up at the time of the incident. Tell the harasser that his/her behaviour is unwanted and has to stop.
● Tell someone he/she trusts, such as his/her teachers/fellow students for emotional support and advice.
● Keep a written record of the incidents, including the dates, time, location and witnesses 
    and their own response to the incident.
● Lodge a formal complaint to the school principal or his/her designate or the teacher-in-charge.
● Lodge a complaint with the EOC and request investigation and/or conciliation.
● Complain to the Education Bureau.
● Report to the police and/or file a civil law suit against the harasser.

“The EOC urges all schools to formulate and implement an anti-sexual harassment policy, provide proper training for school staff and students in order to demonstrate that the school takes its duty to prevent and deal with sexual harassment seriously and cannot tolerate sexual harassment on campus. The procedures for dealing with sexual harassment complaints and contact information of the designated complaint-handling personnel should be clearly stated in the anti-sexual harassment policy to facilitate the lodging of complaints by aggrieved persons,” added Prof. Alfred CHAN.
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For media enquiry, please contact Mr Sam HO at 2106-2187.

Equal Opportunities Commission
5 September 2017

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