Equal Opportunities Commission


Submissions to International Bodies in relation to International Instruments


CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women)

HKSAR’s Second Report under
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Report to the Home Affairs Bureau, HKSAR
submitted by
Equal Opportunities Commission, HKSAR
This paper sets out the work undertaken by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) for the period from 1 January 1999 to 31 October 2002 (hereinafter referred to as current reporting cycle) in areas relating to provisions under Articles 2, 5, 10 and 11 of CEDAW.
1.  Introduction
1.1            The EOC, established in May 1996, is tasked with the responsibility for, inter alia, eliminating sex discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity between men and women. The EOC discharges its duties through various functions: complaint-handling, strategic litigation, policy development and research, providing training and consultancy, and public education.
1.2            Of the three pieces of anti-discrimination legislation, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) and the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance (FSDO) are directly relevant to the implementation of CEDAW. The SDO, enacted in 1995, renders unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sex, pregnancy and marital status, while the FSDO, enacted in 1997, renders unlawful discrimination on the ground of family status. Both ordinances cover specified fields including employment, education, provision of goods, services and facilities, government activities and so forth.
2.  Significant Developments in Recent Work on Eliminating Discrimination (Articles 2 and 5)
Training and Consultancy
2.1            In March 2001, the EOC established a new Training and Consultancy Unit (TCU) to assist employers, service providers and government to better understand the implications of anti-discrimination ordinances for their workplaces. Annex I provides details of training and consultancy work carried out by TCU since its establishment.
2.2            The TCU provides a range of training and advisory services including training workshops, tailor-made training programmes, train-the-trainer programmes and specific projects that are implemented collaboratively with key stakeholders in Hong Kong. The TCU works in partnership with clients and, where applicable, incorporates the clients’ own equal opportunities policies and procedures in the training. In so doing, the TCU assists the clients in meeting their obligation of ensuring staff are aware of government or company policies and internal procedures for dealing with complaints.
2.3            The TCU’s consultancy service compliments the training service by advising on how to implement equal opportunities programmes, assisting with policy development and implementation; ongoing equal opportunities monitoring; strategy evaluation and conducting equal opportunities surveys.
2.4            Since its establishment, demand for service from many sectors has increased and clients range from government departments, insurance companies, banks, hotels, multi-national companies to non-governmental organisations. For example, between April and September 2002 alone, 30 organisations and companies have requested tailor-made training.
Policy Development and Research
2.5            The EOC is concerned with the systems and structures by which individuals and groups are excluded or marginalized and believes it is important to relate micro-level activities, such as complaint-handling and public education work, to macro-level social polices. Knowledge and information obtained from micro-level activities facilitate greater understanding of the external environment and its impact on social groups. They also help inform other work such as policy development, research, and training and consultancy. Hence, policy development and research has remained an integral part of EOC’s work, as it provides a focused approach to the promotion of equal opportunities in every facet of EOC’s work.
2.6            To consolidate this work, the EOC set up the Policy Support and Research Unit in January 2000 with the aim of promoting excellence in social policy development through inclusion of diversity considerations. The EOC regularly reviews public and private sector policies and practices, reviews statistical data to identify trends, and attends regular and occasional meetings with stakeholders such as government, community groups and businesses to ascertain and monitor major concerns. The EOC often undertakes research on its own initiative and occasionally at the request of others, such as the Legislative Council.
2.7            Through this work, the EOC becomes a supporting resource by assisting external bodies from public, private and non-governmental sectors to develop policy advice; or by providing data, information and perspectives to facilitate evaluation, planning and policy development making, and organisational decision-making.
2.8            In advocating policy changes in areas where systemic gender discrimination is identified, the EOC also consistently recommends that a gender mainstreaming approach be applied to the development of policies.
2.9            To date, the EOC has advocated policy changes in many different areas and examples include:
  • Formal investigation into the Secondary School Places Allocation System (1998-1999)
  • Comments to the Consultation on Review of Education System Reform Proposal (July 2000)
  • Comments to the Consultation on “Learning to Learn – The Way Forward in Curriculum Development” (March 2001)
  • Comments to the Consultation on Health Care Reform – “Lifelong Investment in Health” (March 2001)
  • Sports Policy Review Report “Towards a More Sporting Future” (August 2002)
  • Recommendation to the Buildings Department to consider introducing mandatory baby care facilities in buildings, in particular those buildings used by significant numbers of families or the general public (October 2002)
2.10        In 2000, the EOC set up an Information Technology Task Force to study accessibility issues, barriers, opportunities and the impact of information technology (IT), or the lack of it, on the daily lives of people with disabilities and women. To keep abreast with government initiatives in this area, the EOC regularly attended meetings of the Home Affairs Department's Central Coordinating Committee on the Promotion of Information Technology to Women.
2.11        The EOC also works closely with the IT industry and professional organisations to address the digital gap for women. For example, the EOC supported the Web Care Campaign, launched by the Internet Professional Association, to promote IT awareness and training among people with disabilities and women, among other objectives.
3.  Complaint-Handling (Article 2)
3.1            The EOC investigates into complaints lodged under the SDO and FSDO and endeavours conciliation between the parties in dispute. During the current reporting cycle, the EOC received a total of 2021 complaints under the SDO and 114 under the FSDO. For further details of these statistics, please refer to Annex II.
4.  Judicial Decision under the SDO and FSDO (Article 2)
4.1            Where a settlement cannot be effected by conciliation in complaints lodged under the SDO or the FSDO, aggrieved persons may apply to the EOC for assistance. The type of assistance that may be granted ranges from giving legal advice to arranging for representation at court. During the current reporting cycle, the EOC received a total of 65 applications under the SDO and 3 under the FSDO. Statistics on applications for legal assistance are available at Annex III.
4.2            The court rulings in some these cases have provided the basis for defining sex discrimination in the context of Hong Kong. Annex IV provides descriptions of natures and outcomes of some significant court cases brought by the EOC within the current reporting cycle and they include:
  • Yuen Sha Sha v Tse Chi Pan [1999] 2 HKLRD 28
  • Secretary for Justice v Chan Wah & Ors [2000] 3 HKLRD 641
  • EOC v Director of Education [2001] 2 HKLRD 690
  • Chang Ying Kwan v Wyeth (H.K.) Ltd. [2001] HKC 129
  • Helen Tsang v Cathay Pacific CACV 43/2001
  • Yuen Wai Han v South Elderly DCEO 6/01
5.  Public Education Work (Article 5)
5.1            The EOC promotes gender equality through publications of guidelines and other useful references which are disseminated via different channels; seminars and training workshops; community development programmes as well as publicity and public education programmes. Annex V provides a list of EOC publications that were published and disseminated within the current reporting cycle.
5.2            The EOC’s homepage was revamped in March 2002 to become the world’s first bi-lingual (Chinese and English) on-line resource centre to provide the latest information on equal opportunities and anti-discrimination laws. This website is fully accessible to people with disabilities to advance the EOC’s goal of promoting “IT for All”.
5.3            The EOC organised seminars and conferences to promote understanding of issues relating to sex and family status discrimination. Talks and training workshops were delivered to targeted sectors. Annex VI provides a list of seminars, conferences and workshops held during the current reporting cycle.
5.4            In addition to seminars and conferences, 945 introductory talks have been delivered to government departments, schools, businesses, community groups and other interested organisations. Since the establishment of the Training and Consultancy Unit in March 2001 (see page 1 for details), the EOC has been able to provide more in-depth training tailored to the needs of the requesting organisations.
5.5            Outreach programmes to the community have been conducted since 1999 and these include 17 community road shows held in popular shopping centres and playgrounds in different districts, and the annual month-long Equal Opportunities Expo featuring different community events.
5.6            The EOC’s Community Participation Funding Programme began in 1997 to support and encourage community organisations to develop projects that promote equal opportunities. As at 31 October 2002, more than HK$2.4 million(52% of total funds approved) was approved for 154 community projects (51% of total projects funded) to promote gender equality and the understanding of SDO and FSDO.
5.7            Youths are a targeted group for many of EOC’s public education work. Major programmes in this area are as follows:
  • Sponsored drama performances and puppet shows in schools. This included 156 performances of “This is not a Joke” – a play on prevention of sexual harassment that was watched by more than 40,000 students. Other drama performances on equal opportunities reached out to about 25,000 students.
  • In partnership with the Education Department, a special Education Television (ETV) programme on equal opportunities was produced for junior forms students. The programme ran on ETV since 1999 on a continuous basis.
  • Summer camps were held in 1999, 2000 and 2001, where about 1,000 students participated.
  • Established a youth mentorship programme in 2002 entitled “The Career Challenge”.
  • Organised two Scout Instructors Development Programmes in 2001 and 2002.
  • Organised other outreach programmes such as slogan, drama and debate competitions.
5.8            Advertising campaigns were launched to promote the concept of equal opportunities to the public. These included:
  • Advertising campaigns on prevention of pregnancy discrimination, family status discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, which featured large, eye-catching posters on rail transit platforms for over two million passengers travelling daily on Hong Kong’s mass transit railway system;
  • Bus advertisements conveying the equal opportunities message;
  • Televised campaigns: three Announcements in Public Interest (APIs), a nine-episode docu-drama in 2000, and a 20-episode of drama series on Cable TV’s Children Channel in July 2001;
  • Radio campaigns: an eight-segment programme in 2000 entitled “Teens Park”, and a 10-episode docu-drama in 2002 entitled “The Equal Opportunities Files”.
  • Exhibition booths at different expos, such as the annual Education and Career Expo and other conference events.
6.  EOC’s Research on Gender Stereotyping in Education (Article 10)
6.1            A Baseline Survey of Students’ Attitudes toward Gender Stereotypes and Family Roles
  • This study looked at current levels of acceptance and recognition among primary and secondary school students of gender stereotypes and family roles for future comparison. The study explored students’ perceptions of gender issues such as sex traits, occupation orientation, preference of school subjects and extracurricular activities, family roles and dress codes.
  • It was found that both male and female students were markedly gender stereotyped in their thinking on career and subject preferences. For example, electrician, plumber, engineer, fire-fighter were still considered as more suitable for men, while nurse, kindergarten teacher, secretary and childcare worker were for women. School subjects such as maths, computer, and physical education were the most favourite subjects for boys, while domestic science, art and music for girls. These findings provided valuable aid to the EOC, education professionals and youth workers in formulating effective sustainable strategies.
6.2            Research on Content Analysis of Textbooks and Teaching Materials in Respect of Stereotypes
  • Textbooks and teaching materials play an important role in forming and reinforcing the attitude and perceptions of our children. The study investigated the nature and extent of stereotyping in printed educational materials, textbooks and examination papers and looked into aspects such as family role, occupation, economic status, interests, public participation, achievements, social status and emotions as well as the perceptions of various stakeholders responsible for the production of educational materials.
  • The findings showed that overall, female characters appeared less often than male characters. The dominance of male characters was generally greater in secondary, as compared to primary-level, materials. Characters with disabilities and single parenthood were also either rarely mentioned or under-represented. The findings were useful in developing recommendation guidelines for publishers and teachers in providing alternative presentations in textbooks and teaching materials.
6.3            Formal investigation into the Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) System
  • Following enquiries from parents on sex discrimination in the placement of their children in secondary schools, the EOC conducted a formal investigation into the SSPA system, which has been in place for over 20 years. The investigation and subsequent report, released in August 1999, found the SSPA system to be discriminatory against individual boys and girls on the basis of sex. The EOC recommended that system be reviewed to remove the sex-discriminatory elements. The Education Department (ED) declined this recommendation.
  • In view of the wide impact of ED’s decision on the children of Hong Kong, the EOC applied for a judicial review of this decision in July 2000. On 22 June 2001, the High Court ruled that all three gender-based mechanisms in the SSPA system were discriminatory and unlawful.
6.4            “Survey on Design & Technology and Home Economics in Secondary Schools in Hong Kong”
  • This survey found that 85% of co-educational schools in Hong Kong did not allow students the freedom to choose between Design & Technology and Home Economics, while most single sex schools only offered one of the two subjects. All boys’ schools offered only Design & Technology, while 4% of girls’ schools offered both subjects. Of the 15% of co-educational schools which said students were free to choose both subjects, only 21.8% reported that their pupils were taking both subjects.
  • Following this study, schools were advised that restricting the study of subjects by sex contravened the SDO. In October 1999, more than 150 concerned individuals including principals, teachers and members of concern groups, participated in a workshop to share best practices in ensuring that students were given the choice of studying Design & Technology and Home Economics.
  • A subsequent enquiry made with ED regarding the status of this initiative showed that 95% of government schools no longer restricted the study of these subjects. In some schools where this restriction had not yet been lifted, plans were in place to do so.
7.  Initiatives in Promoting the Implementation of Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value (EPEV) (Article 11)
7.1            During the EOC’s consultation on the Code of Practice on Employment under the SDO in 1996, members of the public raised the feasibility of introducing EPEV in Hong Kong. In response, the EOC commissioned an inter-university team of researchers to conduct a feasibility study in 1997. While the study examined issues, such as the local gender gap in employment and earnings, the problems faced by local firms in implementing pay equity, and the cost and impact of introducing such equity, the specific objective of the study was to recommend how EPEV could be implemented in Hong Kong.
7.2            These implementation recommendations were contained in the study report completed in October 1998. The EOC responded by introducing public education programmes to firstly promote public understanding and discussion on the concept and the principles of EPEV.
7.3            A conference was held in March 2000 to introduce the EPEV concept into the public arena for discussion. More than 300 participants attended comprising government, employers, women’s organisations, trade unions, human resource practitioners and academics. Speakers at the conference included a representative from the International Labour Office, a Legislative Councillor, government officials, a researcher of the Feasibility Study, a representative from a women’s group and a human resource expert.
7.4            In May 2000, with special funding from the Government, the EOC established a Task Force to study the status of EPEV and to make recommendations to progressively implement EPEV in Hong Kong. The Task Force subsequently recommended that a study on EPEV (the Study) be undertaken. Annex VII provides the aims, objectives and scope of the Study.
7.5            Phase I of the Study is completed and the issues that were considered in the report include:
  • enacting specific legislation and legislative changes;
  • adopting methods of pay determination that are gender neutral and which takes more job-related factors into account;
  • promoting the concept of EPEV by engaging in public education;
  • reviewing the issue of job segregation; and
  • developing guidelines to facilitate the implementation of EPEV.
The EOC has not yet finalized its recommendations.
7.6            The EOC organised a second conference on EPEV in October 2001 and brought together a panel of experts from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom to focus on international best practices in the field of pay equity. The conference helped participants to better understand the implementation of EPEV in Hong Kong through examining good practices of this concept in overseas countries. About 200 participants attended comprising employers, human resource practitioners, policy-makers and labour and human rights activists.
Equal Opportunities Commission
November 2002