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LCQ14: Support services for same-sex cohabitants

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (June 6):


     Same-sex cohabitation relationship was put under the scope of protection of the Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance (Cap. 189) (the Ordinance) in 2009. Quite a number of people in the society who have doubts about their sexual orientation and are inclined to develop same-sex intimate relationship or same-sex cohabitation relationship have indicated that they may encounter some difficulties when they tell their family members and friends about their sexual orientation, and face adverse labelling in the society, and thus they may have more social service needs in respect of their emotions as well as social interactions. Data from local and international studies have also shown that, since homosexuals belong to a minority group in the society and are being discriminated against, they have more social needs than people in general in the society. Quite a number of homosexuals have reflected that at present, the Social Welfare Department has not subsidised any service, which is provided to meet the specific needs of homosexual groups, and the existing mainstream social services cannot meet their needs. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have conducted surveys on the number of same-sex cohabitants in Hong Kong and their social needs; if they have, of the number in the past three years; whether statistics on the number of same-sex and opposite-sex cohabitants and their households are collected in the population census at present; if so, of the details; if not, whether the authorities will collect such data in the next population census;

(b) of the respective numbers of same-sex cohabitants who had sought assistance from government agencies and social service organisations in respect of domestic violence since the Ordinance came into operation in 2009; whether the authorities have conducted any publicity or provided educational resources to encourage same-sex cohabitants suffering from domestic violence to seek assistance; and;

(c) of the number of cohabiting same-sex couples who had received social services from government agencies and subsidised agencies last year; whether the Government will consider following the practice of providing services to meet the specific needs of ethnic minorities, and provide services that meet the specific needs of homosexual groups; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the Hon Cheung Kwok-che's question is as follows -

(a) The Government has not conducted any survey on the number of same-sex cohabitants in Hong Kong and their social needs. In the past population censuses/by-censuses conducted by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), no information on same-sex and opposite-sex cohabitants had been collected.

     The next Population By-census will be conducted in 2016. When planning for the By-census, C&SD will, in the light of the latest socio-economic developments in Hong Kong, consult relevant government bureaux and departments, academic institutions, chambers of commerce and non-governmental organisations on the statistical topics. C&SD will examine the views collected and consider the need for including new topics in the By-census. Other factors to be considered will include whether the use of data is extensive, the availability of alternative sources and channels of data collection, the willingness of respondents to provide answers, the possibility of collecting accurate data, as well as the prevailing international practices and standards.

(b) The Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance (the Ordinance) (Cap. 189) came into effect in January 2010, extending the protection under the Ordinance to cover same-sex cohabitants. As at the end of March 2012, five newly reported cases involving violence among same-sex cohabitants were captured by the Central Information System on Spouse/Cohabitant Battering Cases and Sexual Violence Cases.

     The Social Welfare Department (SWD) has sought to enhance public understanding of the scope of protection of the Ordinance through different channels, including the District Liaison Groups on Family Violence, the District Co-ordinating Committees on Family and Child Welfare Services, talks and district activities, etc, so as to help victims of domestic violence (including same-sex cohabitants) understand their rights, protection provided by law and relevant support services. Besides, representatives of the Labour and Welfare Bureau and SWD attended the Sexual Minorities Forum organised by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in December 2009 to brief relevant organisations and groups on the contents of the Ordinance, as well as the support services available to the victims.

     On its information leaflet and webpage on support for victims of family violence, SWD has also pointed out that support services are available to victims of domestic violence, regardless of their sex, ethnic origin and sex orientation. SWD will continue with its public education and publicity efforts to enhance public awareness of the issue of domestic violence and encourage those in need to seek early assistance.

(c) The objective of services provided by SWD and its subvented organisations is to provide appropriate assistance to all people in need irrespective of their sexual orientation. Taking into account the privacy concerns and feelings of the service users, SWD has not required its service units and subvented organisations to collect information on the sexual orientation of the service users.

     The Government has established the Equal Opportunities (Sexual Orientation) Funding Scheme, the objective of which is to provide funding support to worthwhile community projects which aim at promoting equal opportunities on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, or seek to provide support services for sexual minorities.

Ends/Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:27


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