Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ11: Eliminating sex discrimination and prevention of sexual harassment in schools

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Man-kwong and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (May 26):


     Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 480), educational institutions have the responsibility to prevent sexual harassment and to avoid creating a sexually hostile environment in schools.  Some members of the education sector have pointed out that the implementation of gender mainstreaming in education policies directly affects the promotion of gender equality and combat of sexual harassment in schools.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have put in place any measure to monitor the elimination of sex discrimination (including sexual harassment) by educational institutions; if they have, of the contents of the measures; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) of the latest situation regarding the usage of the Brief Outline on the Policy on Preventing Sexual Harassment provided by the Education Bureau ("EDB") for reference by schools; whether EDB has monitored its utilization rate; how EDB promotes the understanding of sexual harassment and the related policies among teachers and students in schools;

(c) of the respective numbers of universities, secondary schools, primary schools, kindergartens and special schools which have formulated policies on preventing sexual harassment at present; whether EDB will provide assistance to educational institutions which have not formulated policy on preventing sexual harassment; if it will, of the ways to provide assistance;

(d) whether schools have relayed to EDB the complaints received on sex discrimination and sexual harassment; if they have, of the number of complaints received in each of the past five years; whether the authorities had followed up such complaints; if they had, of the number and the contents of substantiated complaints, and among them, the number of persons who had been punished and the forms of punishment; if follow-up actions had not been taken, the reasons for that; and

(e) whether the authorities have applied the Gender Mainstreaming Checklist to education policies; if they have, of the names and contents of areas of concern of such policies; if they have not, the reasons for that and whether they have assessed if the non-application of the checklist violates the policy on gender equality; if such policy has been violated, how EDB handles the matter?



(a) and (b) In response to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) which came into effect in 1996, the Education Bureau (EDB) issued a circular to schools urging them to comply with the SDO.  We also issued a circular to schools in 2003 to remind them that when formulating and reviewing their school policies, they should comply with the various anti-discrimination ordinances and observe the principles of equal opportunities to avoid any form of discrimination.

     Following the amendment of the definition of "sexual harassment" under the SDO in 2008, we issued a circular to remind schools of the amended contents of the ordinance, and to urge them to take reasonable and practical steps, including developing a school policy (in written form) to eliminate sexual harassment, raising the understanding of and awareness about sexual harassment among the staff and the students, and setting up mechanisms to handle complaints about sexual harassment.  Should there be any doubts/difficulties when handling related complaints, schools may consult the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) or other relevant organizations (e.g. the police).  If it involves a suspected criminal offence, the case should be referred to the police for further action.  In addition, we worked with the EOC to provide guidelines and briefing sessions for schools to help them formulate measures to eliminate and prevent sexual harassment and set up procedures to handle sexual harassment complaints.  The guidelines, frequently asked questions and sample cases have been uploaded to the EDB website and will be updated when necessary.

     In their day-to-day contact with the school management, the EDB staff will draw the schools' attention to the need of eliminating sex discrimination and implementing relevant measures in school.  We understand that schools attach importance to the prevention of sexual harassment.  Some of them have formulated written policy documents on the prevention of sexual harassment in schools while some have alerted their staff through various means (e.g staff meetings) to the requirements of the SDO and the procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints.

     As far as students are concerned, nurturing their whole person development is one of the major goals of school education.  Through a holistic curriculum comprising knowledge, values/attitudes and skills, we help students at different learning stages develop healthy interpersonal relationships, gain a deep understanding of the importance of gender equality, and promote mutual respect and harmony between the two genders.  In general, schools also teach students what sexual harassment is and how to resist it in sex education or moral education lessons.

(c) The eight University Grants Committee-funded institutions and the Vocational Training Council have all developed policies and/or procedures to prevent and handle sex discrimination and sexual harassment.  They have also organised activities such as training programmes and seminars to promote the related measures.  As for secondary schools, primary schools, kindergartens and special schools, EDB does not have records of the number of schools that have formulated policies on preventing sexual harassment.  Other than issuing circular and guidelines for schools to formulate relevant school-based policies having regard to their own circumstances and needs, EDB also assists schools in formulating related policies through school visits, day-to-day contact with schools, briefing sessions and seminars, etc.   

(d) In each of the past five years, the number of complaints about sex discrimination and sexual harassment in schools received by the EDB is shown at Annex.

     Among the above complaints, 14 of them were found not substantiated after investigation, one had to be referred to the police for follow up and the remaining two recent cases are still under investigation.

(e) The EDB has applied the Gender Mainstreaming Checklist to two policy/programme areas, namely, Secondary School Places Allocation and Qualifications Framework.  In the process of formulating other policies and programmes, we also take into full account the perspectives and needs of the two genders and comply with the sex discrimination ordinance to ensure that both genders have equitable and reasonable access to the society's resources and opportunities.  This is in alignment with the spirit of the application of the Checklist.

Ends/Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:24


Print this page