Report on Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status Press Conference
Remarks by Dr York Y N CHOW, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission
Friends of the media, ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for coming to the media briefing session this afternoon. Today the EOC is going to release the report of its Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status, which has been commissioned to the Gender Research Centre of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
This study is by far the most comprehensive of its kind in Hong Kong, in terms of both its scope and the methodologies used. In commissioning this study, we aim to provide a comprehensive picture of the situation of discrimination against LGBTI people in our city. Our intention is to complement the effort of the Government and the Advisory Group on Eliminating Discrimination against Sexual Minorities.
With extensive data and thorough analyses, this study can serve as an evidence-based foundation and provide useful reference for the Government and related parties in considering the policies and measures for advancing equality for LGBTI people, including the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation.
We fully reckon that this is a sensitive subject, and that there are diverse opinions from different sectors of the community. Indeed, during the study, the research team conducted focus group discussions with different stakeholders and members of the public, including those with very strong concerns. The study also paid particular attention on ways to address the various concerns about the potential legislation. In regard to the concerns, we must emphasise that the study has not addressed the issue of “same-sex marriage”, as “marriage” is outside the scope of the existing anti-discrimination laws. The EOC does not have the statutory power to deal with issues relating to legalising same-sex marriage.
The EOC believes that it would be possible to balance the need to protect LGBTI people from discrimination with the concerns and rights of other groups, such as to freedoms of expression and religion, and the right to privacy. The existing human rights legislation, such as the Bill of Rights Ordinance, and the anti-discrimination ordinances, already do balance such rights in their provisions and day-to-day implementation. The research team has carefully studied the practices in other jurisdictions, almost all of which have introduced exemptions in the law in order to balance the interests of different parties. We think these would provide useful references for Hong Kong.
Perhaps I would now pass to Professor Suen Yiu-tung to explain further the research methodologies and findings. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you have just heard, there is obviously a significant change in public opinion in support of legislation to protect LGBTI from discrimination over the last decade, with particularly strong support from young people. What’s more, there are diverse views on this issue among different religious groups, as almost half of the survey respondents who identified as having religious beliefs agreed that there should be legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.
Taking into consideration the public opinions, the human rights obligations of Hong Kong and the recommendations by the United Nations, as well as the international developments on this front, the EOC is recommending the Government to conduct public consultation on the enactment of anti-discrimination legislation to protect our LGBTI communities as soon as possible.
Our next step is to present the study report to the Government for consideration. The report has already been reviewed and deliberated at the last EOC meeting on 17 December 2015, and subsequently incorporated the comments of the EOC Board Members, with endorsement from the majority.
We will continue to monitor and follow up on the developments. And we will definitely continue our advocacy for equality for all. Thank you once again for joining us this afternoon.