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LCQ 15: Sex education in schools


Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (May 12):


Regarding sexual abuse of primary and secondary students by their peers and the implementation of sex education in schools, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the total number of cases received by the authorities in the past three years concerning sexual harassment, sexual abuse with and without bodily contact of primary and secondary students;

(b) how the authorities and the schools concerned have investigated these cases and followed up the situations of the victims, and whether the authorities have instituted prosecutions;

(c) whether schools hold regular meetings with parents and social workers to exchange teaching experience in areas such as the enhancement of students' and children's knowledge of sex; and

(d) whether schools currently conduct sex education classes at junior levels only?


Madam President,

(a) The Social Welfare Department (SWD) recorded 152, 179 and 150 new child sexual abuse cases (in respect of children under the age of 18) in the Child Protection Registry in 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively.

The Police also maintain their own statistics on cases in relation to sexual abuse of students (aged 16 and under) by their peers. The number of cases in the past three years is as follows:

Offence 2001 2002 2003

------- ---- ---- ----

Rape 10 14 7

Indecent assault 64 81 69

Unlawful sexual act 134 149 193

Since SWD and the Police treat the statistics on child sexual abuse differently (see annex), the above statistics also differ.

The Government, however, does not have breakdowns showing the number of cases involving sexual harassment and sexual abuse with and without bodily contact of primary and secondary students.

(b) Guidelines on handling child abuse (including sexual abuse) cases are set out in the 'Procedures for Handling Child Abuse Cases-Revised 1998' produced by SWD. If a suspected child sexual abuse case (including cases involving peers as suspected abusers) is identified in school, a social investigation (involving family background, circumstances giving rise to the abuse incident(s), parents' and child's attitude, formulation of welfare plan, etc.) will be conducted by the school social worker or casework unit of other organisations if the case is already known to them. If the case is not known to any casework unit, the case will be referred to the Family and Child Protective Services Unit of SWD for conducting the social investigation. At the same time, the case will be reported to the police and a medical examination will be arranged if necessary. A Multi-disciplinary Case Conference will be convened to decide on the nature of the case (whether the case is a child abuse case) and to formulate welfare plan for the child. If the case is established as a child abuse case, the social worker responsible will provide follow-up services to the child and his/her family with the aims to help the child overcome the trauma caused by the abuse incident(s) and protect him/her from further abuse.

Upon receipt of a sexual abuse report that a criminal offence may have been committed, the Police will conduct a criminal investigation. If the case is found substantiated, the Police will make arrest and initiate prosecution. The numbers of prosecuted cases in the past three years were 99 in 2001, 106 in 2002 and 111 in 2003.

(c) At present, having regard to the developmental needs of students, individual schools organise group discussions, talks, workshops and seminars throughout the school year for parents to assist them in acquiring knowledge and skills in relation to sex education as well as helping their children develop correct values and attitudes of sexuality. Besides, schools collaborate with social workers of family life education in the neighborhood from time to time to organise various educational activities to provide parents with the necessary guidance and support.

(d) The Education and Manpower Bureau has always been committed to promoting sex education at different stages of schooling with the aim of helping students understand more about sex as they grow, respect interpersonal responsibilities and adjust to the social demands. Through these means, students will attain meaning in life.

In the current syllabuses for primary and secondary schools, various subjects (e.g. General Studies at primary level, Social Studies, Civic Education, Religious Studies, Liberal Studies, Integrated Science, Biology, Human Biology and Home Economics at secondary level) contain topics relevant to sex education.

Cases of sexual abuse may be prevented if our students can learn to have respect for others and protect themselves. "Respect for others and do not abuse others" and "protect yourself and let no one harm you" are two core areas in moral and civic education under the curriculum reform. Besides, cultivating the value of "respect for others" among students is one of the priorities in the development of moral and civic education.

At primary level, the curriculum of General Studies aims to help students acquire some basic understanding of the physical, psychological and social aspects of health, and develop a positive attitude towards their personal growth and development. Besides, they can learn to make informed decisions related to their health and safety, including seeking assistance through proper means when faced with problems.

At secondary level, in addition to the relevant topics covered by Integrated Science and Home Economics, the curricula of Social Studies and Liberal Studies also provide students with ample opportunities to foster an understanding of the correct concepts and values of sexuality, and to know more about issues related to the different roles of the two sexes. Besides, themes like "the importance of valuing oneself and others" and "factors influencing one's development, attitudes of sexuality, interpersonal relationships, values and beliefs" are essential elements of the Personal, Social and Humanities Education Key Learning Areas for students.



The differences in the way that SWD and the Police treat child abuse cases including child sexual abuse, include:

(1) The Police adopt a wider definition on child abuse than that of SWD. For instance, offences like unlawful sexual intercourse, e.g. casual sexual relationship between teenagers, etc. are counted as child abuse cases by the Police but not SWD.

(2) SWD regards each abused child as one single abuse case even though there may be several abuse incidents, while the Police count the number of cases according to the number of incidents.

Ends/Wednesday, May 12, 2004


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