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LCQ9: Measures to protect children from sexual abuses
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (January 31):


     To answer a call of a social movement on the social media, quite a number of people, who came from the political, education, sports sectors, etc. around the world, broke their silence in recent months to disclose their experiences of being sexually harassed or assaulted many years ago and even before their adulthood. On protecting children from sexual assaults and implementing sex education at schools, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of reports received in each of the past three years by the authorities about children being sexually assaulted, broken down by the occupation of the suspects (if known);

(2) whether it has required all schools to formulate policies on and measures for protecting children from sexual assaults, and assisted them in this respect; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) of the measures to raise the alertness and response capabilities of children to sexual assaults, and whether it will enhance the provision of psychological counselling and support for children who have been sexually assaulted and their family members, so as to help them recover from their traumas and resume a normal living; and

(4) whether the Education Bureau will review and amend the Guidelines on Sex Education in Schools (1997 edition), including requiring all schools to (i) develop sex education programmes in accordance with the Guidelines, and (ii) establish a mechanism to review the learning effectiveness of such programmes; if so, of the details and the timetable; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government attaches great importance to the well-being of children and firmly believes that every child has a right to protection against sexual abuse.

     Having consulted relevant bureaux and departments, including the Education Bureau (EDB), Security Bureau, Social Welfare Department (SWD) and Hong Kong Police Force (the Police), my consolidated reply to the question is as follows:

(1) For the statistics regarding the newly reported child sexual abuse cases and the occupation of the abusers of the child sexual abuse cases captured by the SWD during the period from 2015 to September 2017, please refer to the Annex.

     From 2015 to 2017, the Police have in each year received 504, 477 and 478 reported cases involving "sexual crimes against children" (Note) respectively. The Police do not maintain information on the occupation of the related offenders.

     When collecting the case figures, the SWD and the Police adopt their own statistical definitions and bases in accordance with their different operational needs, and hence the statistics cannot be compared directly.

Note: They refer to such sexual crimes as rape, indecent assault and unlawful sexual intercourse involving a victim who is under 17 years of age, irrespective of the nature of relationship between the victim and the offender, as well as crimes involving an offender who has blood relationship with the victim as specified under other legislation, such as incest.

(2) The EDB has been taking various measures to assist schools in creating a sexual-harassment-free (including sexual abuse) working and learning environment. The Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 480) was amended in 2008 to extend the definition of sexual harassment to include any conduct of a sexual nature in educational settings.  Consequent to the amendment to the Ordinance that came into effect, the EDB reminds schools through EDB Circular No. 2/2009 "Amendment to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 480)" of their responsibilities to ensure that all individuals, including students and staff members, are able to study or work in a safe and sexually hostile-free environment. The EDB advises schools to take reasonable and practicable steps, including developing a school policy in written form to eliminate sexual harassment, and establishing a comprehensive complaint-handling and support mechanism. In addition, education and training should be provided to create a gender-equal and respectful school culture so as to prevent sexual harassment. Meanwhile, to help schools formulate a school-based policy on preventing sexual harassment, the EDB has worked with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to provide guidelines and arrange briefing sessions for schools to help formulate measures for eliminating and preventing sexual harassment, and develop procedures for handling such complaints, etc. Relevant information has been uploaded onto the EDB's website for schools' reference.

     The EDB attaches great importance to the well-being and safety of children, and has all along reminded schools through various channels of the need of early identification and provision of support to students in need. The EDB has stated clearly in the circular and related documents to all schools (including secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens) the procedures on handling child abuse cases (including sexual abuse) and areas to which the schools should pay attention.  Schools are advised to keep an eye on the behaviour and emotion of students for early identification of whether they have been abused or sexually abused, and take appropriate measures according to the "Procedural Guide for Handling Child Abuse Cases (Revised 2015)" issued by the SWD with a view to providing necessary assistance to the child suspected of abuse.

     To raise the awareness of teachers of secondary and primary schools as well as kindergartens in protection of students, the EDB organises talks and seminars annually in collaboration with the SWD to advise them on early identification, intervention and support of student victims of child abuse (including sexual abuse). The Government is actively preparing to strengthen respective training for staff in schools.  The EDB is now jointly organising a number of briefings with the SWD and the Police scheduled for end of January to early February this year.  The educational psychologists and representatives from related departments will explain how to identify and make referrals of the suspected child abuse cases so as to strengthen teachers' ability to identify the symptoms of child abuse, raise their sensitivity and enhance their understanding of the handling procedures with a view to early identifying and intervening in child abuse cases.

     Besides, to guard against the appointment of improper persons as teachers, the EDB reminds schools through EDB Circular No. 16/2017 "Measures for Strengthening the Protection of Students: Appointment Matters of Schools" that they should request prospective employees to undergo Sexual Conviction Record Check at the advanced stage of the employment process for verifying the sexual conviction records as declared for protection of students' safety. At the same time, the EDB also reminds schools to put in place a stringent selection process and strengthen the administrative measures on appointment and related matters. These include requiring the applicants to declare in the application forms and/or other related documents whether they have been convicted of any criminal offence in Hong Kong or elsewhere, or whether their teacher registration has been cancelled/refused, and to provide the details accordingly. In addition, schools should state clearly on the application forms and/or other related documents the dire consequences of criminal prosecution that the appointees may face for providing false information or withholding material information.  Furthermore, the EDB encourages schools, upon seeking the appointees' consent, to verify the documents submitted, such as to apply to the EDB for releasing information regarding their registration status, check carefully the certificates of service issued by their previous employers or even consult their previous employers about their performance, etc.

(3) The Family and Child Protective Services Units (FCPSUs) of the SWD provide comprehensive services for the victims of child abuse (including sexual abuse), such as temporary residential care service and counselling service, etc.  In the course of providing follow-up services, the social worker will continuously review the situation of the children and their families and provide them with necessary assistance. Apart from helping the victims of child abuse, the social worker will provide necessary services for their families, including the perpetrators. The services include regular visits, counselling services (such as emotional management and counselling, parent-child relationship), financial assistance, and referral for psychological assessment when necessary, so as to ensure the protection of the well-being of the children. Besides, social workers of the FCPSUs will arrange group counselling and developmental programmes for the affected children and their families to help them overcome the negative impact of the incidents, develop their resilience and self-confidence, and re-establish their interpersonal and family relationship.

     In order to raise the awareness of the public (including children) on sexual abuse, the SWD has been using different means of media to convey the message of prevention of child sexual abuse, including the production of short videos and a series of docudrama covering topics such as the risk of child sexual abuse and internet porn trap, and launching the online short-film and storyboard creation competition on prevention of child sexual abuse, etc.

     The Government attaches great importance to students' awareness of self-protection. At present, the school curriculum covers topics related to understanding the body and protecting oneself, for example, "To Protect Our Body, Including Private Parts" and "Be Alert, Protect Ourselves", etc. The expected learning outcomes of moral and civic education curriculum also include "Learning to Protect Oneself and Strictly Resist Offensive Language and Behaviour". The EDB also encourages schools to organise sex-related preventive and developmental guidance activities for students to further enhance sex education at weekly assemblies, class teacher lessons, talks or through other learning experiences to teach students how to protect their bodies, say no when they feel offended and seek help when necessary, from family members, counsellors or relevant organisations. Besides, schools are also encouraged to use the teaching resources provided by the EDB, such as "Self-protection" lesson plans when providing guidance services, and strengthen related parent education.

     Further, if sexual abuse occurs in a school, the EDB will contact the school immediately to understand the incident and its needs, keep close contact with the school, give advice and render appropriate support, including guidance services. The school social worker/student guidance personnel will certainly follow up the concerned case. If required, the social workers who will follow up the case, clinical psychologist, child psychiatrist or teachers, etc. will attend the multi-disciplinary case conference to recommend support measures and formulate a welfare plan for the concerned child, his/her siblings and caretakers. They will also arrange the clinical psychologist or child psychiatrist to provide counselling or therapy to the concerned child and his/her family as required.

     To help sexually-abused students reintegrate into their school life, professional staff of schools (including school social workers, student guidance personnel and school-based educational psychologists) will provide a variety of guidance programmes as required, such as induction/adjustment programme, peer support scheme and therapeutic group work, etc. They will also work in collaboration with social workers of the SWD or non-governmental organisations to help these students and their parents adapt and solve their corresponding problems.

(4) Sex education is part of values education, an integral component of the school curriculum. It is neither an independent subject nor limited narrowly to "sex"-related education but inter-related with moral education, affective education, health education and life education, etc.  The Hong Kong Education Department (now renamed as EDB) issued the "Guidelines on Sex Education in Schools" in 1997 for schools' reference. Since the introduction of curriculum reform in 2001, the EDB has been advocating a holistic learning experience and encouraging schools to plan their curricula and other learning activities holistically and systematically for implementing values education (including sex education). Taking cultivation of students' positive values and attitudes as the direction, schools should co-ordinate the learning elements and learning activities in values education across different subjects for strengthening their connection, so as to provide students with holistic learning experiences conductive to their whole-person development.

     Learning elements related to sex education such as personal development, hygiene, puberty, making friends, dating, marriage, protecting the body and gender equality are included in the Key Learning Areas (KLAs), subjects and the curricula of moral and civic education of primary and secondary schools, and will be updated in a timely manner. Taking into consideration the EDB's latest curriculum guides and documents, their mission, school-based circumstances and needs of students, schools should plan for a suitable school-based sex education curriculum professionally, and organise related learning activities such as weekly assemblies, class-teacher lessons, extra-curricular activities, talks, visits and exhibitions, etc. for the enhancement of students' understanding of the relevant areas. Social atmosphere also exerts influence on values and sex education.  Therefore, the EDB has produced relevant learning and teaching resources and encouraged schools to adopt life events as the main learning contents, and engage students in exploring issues like dating and falling in love, traps in making friends via mobile apps and public display of affection, etc. By establishing a meaningful connection between students' learning and their experience in personal growth, teachers can impart knowledge to students and help them develop positive values and attitudes.

     The EDB will meet and exchange views with stakeholders, understand how the schools implement the values education curriculum (including sex education), provide appropriate advice and listen to their views through different channels, such as school curriculum visits and external school review so as to enhance curriculum development, and learning and teaching effectiveness. Schools will also formulate their assessment policy and constantly review and improve their school-based curriculum and related contents.

     To support schools in implementing sex education, EDB has been producing web-based learning and teaching resources on various subjects. For example, it has commissioned the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong to produce sex education animation resources and lesson plans, covering topics such as gender equality, prevention of sexual abuse and sexual harassment among peers. The EDB has also commissioned/invited tertiary institutions, related government departments and organisations/bodies (e.g. EOC) to co-organise courses/seminars/workshops, etc. on a range of themes such as "How to Promote Sex Education Effectively in Primary/Secondary Schools", "Mass Media, Gender Role and Gender Equality Education" and "Gender Equality Education and Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Dating Violence", etc.

     Curriculum development is a continuous task and requires constant updating. The EDB will keep a close eye on the comments of members of the public about the curricula, and conduct reviews and enhancement regarding sex education in a timely manner.
Ends/Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:00
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