Equal Opportunities Commission Strengthens its Efforts in Education and Prevention
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) will focus its efforts on education and promotion this year.
Speaking at a press conference today (31 January), Ms. Anna WU, Chairperson of the EOC, reviewed the EOC's performance in 1999 and highlighted the key areas of work for 2000.
"1999 has been a very busy and productive year for the EOC. Other than handling a 15.9% increase in complaints caseload, the EOC had completed a formal investigation into the Secondary School Places Allocation System and a case study of Kowloon Bay Health Centre. These dealt with systemic discrimination and stigmatized health services," Ms. WU said.
She pointed out that complaints handled under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) which required investigation and conciliation increased significantly to 271 in 1999, compared to 152 in the previous year, i.e. an increase of 78.3%. Complaints handled under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) remained at a similar level : 307 in 1999 against 310 in 1998.
Two trials were completed successfully : a case of sexual harassment under SDO and a case of disability discrimination and harassment under DDO. Additionally, the EOC appeared as Amicus Curiae in the Court of Appeal arising from judicial review of two rural elections in the New Territories. The judgment of the Court of Appeal has found that discrimination on the ground of sex, or marital status, in the way rural elections are held is unlawful.
"Having analyzed the trends and pattern of discrimination complaints, we believe that systemic and deep-seated discrimination exist in various fields. Our aim is to study what the problems are and make specific recommendations in the areas of prevention and education. Within the year, the Commission has re-organized itself and has expanded the education, promotion and policy research units," Ms. WU added.
She said that there were cases where the complainants were subject to detriments such as different retirement ages for male and female. Dismissal of pregnant staff became more prevalent, probably as a result of the economic down-turn last year. Also, there were cases where job applicants were rejected because their family members had a history of mental illness. The EOC believes that such practices are clearly discriminatory.
Ms. WU pointed out that people with mental illness were the second largest disability group, after people with physical disability, who lodged complaints with the EOC.
"From an anti-discrimination point of view, the EOC considers that the misconceptions that people with mental illness are more 'violent prone' or 'rejects' of the society should be corrected. The EOC will join hands with the medical profession and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in this field to promote a better understanding of people with mental illness and to provide them with better family and community support. A survey on the stigmatization and problems faced by people with mental illness is proposed," Ms. WU said.
At the press conference, Ms. WU also highlighted the EOC's programme to promote equal opportunities in 2000 which included a conference on equal pay for work of equal value in March and a campaign to promote the importance of making information technology (IT) accessible to people with a disability and women. The Commission is also developing a strategy paper on partnership with the business community. A series of educational TV docu-drama on promotion of equal opportunities among the general public will be launched in partnership with Radio Television Hong Kong from March to May 2000.
Ms. WU added that the EOC had already revamped its web-site to accommodate the needs of people with a disability. "We are very encouraged that the EOC Web Site was awarded a certificate of merit by the Apex Junior Chamber in the Community Service Web Site Contest 1999," Ms. WU said.
Ms. WU expected 2000 to be another busy and fruitful year. She pledged that the EOC would strive harder to promote equal opportunities in partnership with Government and the business community.
Enquiry: EOC Hotline 25118211