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LCQ15: Interests of women with disabilities

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau Wai-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (June 20):


     Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities protects the rights of women with disabilities (WWD).  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) whether there are WWD members on the Women's Commission (WoC) to reflect their needs directly; if not, of the channels through which WoC gains knowledge of the needs of WWD; whether WoC organised any activity last year focusing on the needs of WWD;

(b) how they ensure that the rights of WWD are protected when implementing gender mainstreaming; and

(c) of the specific measures in place to provide sex education for women with intellectual disabilities and those with severe mental illness so as to protect them from sexual abuse and to safeguard their reproductive rights?



     My reply to the question raised by the Hon Emily Lau is as follows:

(a) Members of the Women's Commission (WoC) have diverse background, expertise and experience and they are tasked to provide advice to the Government on the advancement of women's interests and well-being.  Besides, the Government has also set up the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee (RAC) as its principal advisory body on matters pertaining to the interests of persons with disabilities (PwDs) and the development and implementation of rehabilitation policies and services.  To ensure that interests of PwDs are represented, the membership of RAC includes persons with different disabilities, parents of PwDs and representatives of PwD self-help organisations, etc., and some of them are female.

     WoC regularly meets with local women's groups (including concern groups on rights of women with disabilities (WWD)) and related non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to exchange views on issues of concern to women in a bid to foster mutual understanding and closer partnership.  WoC also keeps abreast of the latest development of different women's issues in the regional and international arenas through its participation in regional and international conferences from time to time.  In March 2010, for instance, WoC attended the Second Regional Conference on Women with Disabilities (East Asia and Southeast Asia) held in Guangzhou to discuss with concern groups from Hong Kong and neighbouring regions the needs of WWD and the appropriate support measures.

     In its Report on Hong Kong Women's Development Goals published last year, WoC listed "improve medical facilities for disabled women" as one of the women's development goals and proposed to increase the number of gynaecological examination tables for the disabled in Women Health Centres (WHCs) and Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs).  In response to WoC's recommendation, the Department of Health (DH) furnished in three MCHCs additional gynaecological examination tables for the disabled in 2011 and plans to extend the initiative with an ultimate objective to providing every WHC/MCHC with the facility.

(b) The Government is committed to ensuring that WWD receive rehabilitation services and support on an equal basis as other PwDs.  With the advice and support of WoC, gender mainstreaming has been progressively implemented in different policy areas since 2002.  It helps government officers consider in a systematic way the different needs and perspectives of both genders during the process of policy design and programme implementation so that women and men have equitable access to, and benefit from, society's resources and opportunities.  Gender-related training has also been provided on an on-going basis to civil servants of various ranks and departments to strengthen their gender sensitivity and understanding of gender-specific needs.

(c) NGOs providing rehabilitation services offer appropriate training and guidance, including sex education, to service users with intellectual disabilities or mental illness according to their needs.  In this regard, the Clinical Psychological Service Branch of the Social Welfare Department produced a sex education package in 2010 for distribution to rehabilitation agencies to assist their front-line professionals (e.g. social workers, psychologists and counsellors) in providing sex education to adults with intellectual disabilities, including self-protection against sexual abuse.

     The Education Bureau (EDB) also strives to promote sex education in primary and secondary schools, including special schools, through a holistic school curriculum which instills in the personal growth of students an understanding of sex-related issues (e.g. self-protection, gender equality and relationship with the opposite sex).  It aims to nurture positive values, a healthy attitude towards sex, and related life skills (e.g. decision-making and refusal skills) for the benefit of students' whole-person development.  For teachers, EDB organises various professional development programmes on sex education throughout the school year, including training on raising students' gender sensitivity and awareness against sexual abuse, and enhancing educators' consciousness about gender equality.  Professional education programmes on sex education are also provided to teachers of special schools.

     The MCHCs of DH have been providing women with information on sexual health.  Corresponding counselling and relevant services (e.g. contraceptive methods and cervical screening) are also available to cater for the individual needs of women, including those with intellectual disabilities.  The Hospital Authority (HA)'s psychiatric and intellectual disability service units provide social skill training to patients with intellectual disabilities or severe mental illness on a one-to-one or group basis.  The training covers, among other things, ways to get along with the same and opposite sex and norms of proper social behaviour, and equips the patients with appropriate knowledge of sex education and self-protection against sexual abuse.  Apart from patient education, HA also provides family members and carers of patients with relevant information and support services, including crisis management.

Ends/Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:34


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