Amendment to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) welcomes the Government’s amending the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) to prohibit sexually hostile environment in educational settings.
“Under the SDO, there are two types of sexual harassment. The first type is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature directed at the victim, such as unwelcome sexual advance or gestures. The second type is any conduct of a sexual nature creating a sexually hostile work environment. Examples include displaying pornographic materials in an office and telling general sexual jokes among staff. Such conduct is unlawful in the workplace,” a Commission spokesperson said.
“Before the amendment of the SDO, the concept of a sexually hostile environment applied only to work environment and did not apply to educational establishments. That meant whilst shouting obscene slogans or displaying posters with sexual contents on campus might have created a sexually hostile environment, there was no legal provision outlawing it,” the spokesperson explained.
The EOC recommended to the Government in 1999 to amend the SDO to cover this type of sexual harassment, so that educational establishments would be responsible for the prohibition of a sexually hostile learning environment.
Consequent to the amendment to the SDO, the sexually hostile environment concept now also applies to educational settings, meaning that conduct of a sexual nature which creates a hostile or intimidating environment is unlawful.
Following the enactment of the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) in July 2008, the Government made consequential provisions to amend the definitions of terms such as “sexual harassment” in the SDO, which came into effect on 3 October 2008.
The EOC’s efforts in combating sexual harassment included, amongst others, an on-line training module for university students, a Forum on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Universities, Orientation Camp Game Design Contest to Promote Gender Awareness, school play on sexual harassment, prime-time TV programmes and training workshops.
The spokesperson reiterated that sexual harassment in educational environment might contravene the SDO and enquirers can contact the EOC Hotline (2511-8211) for assistance.
Equal Opportunities Commission
14 October 2008