Sex bias 'not a big problem in SAR'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 February, 2001, 12:00am

Sex discrimination is not a major problem in Hong Kong, according to the head of the territory's first Women's Commission.

Sophie Leung Lau Yau-fun, says the key to women's success is increased motivation and education.

'A lot of the problems lower income or grassroots women face stem from a lack of motivation to develop themselves, maybe due to their traditional family values and their own perception of their roles,' Mrs Leung said.

'If you keep talking and bickering about gender issues, you're not going to get far. More important is for each individual to build self-confidence and enrich their knowledge and perspective.'

Mrs Leung was named last month as the first chairwoman of the commission established by the Government to advise on women's issues and policies. The Liberal Party legislator, who represents the textiles and garment sector, cited several top female officials and executives as examples of the pioneering role of women in the territory.

'Women in Hong Kong are well-educated and doing very well - even better than their counterparts in Europe and America - because there is room for women to develop and grow,' she said.

The commission aimed to ensure that all women realised their potential through education and improved communication with the larger community.

'I hope we can help link the different groups and get well-educated women to help the grassroots groups, like a sisterhood, to bring the world's perspective to every woman,' Mrs Leung said. 'Small problems seem easier to handle when you have a broader world view.'

She identified three main categories of women who were particularly vulnerable: new immigrants from the mainland, women on low incomes and victims of domestic violence. The commission would work closely with women's groups and draw on their experience for an improved understanding of the issues, she said.

Responding to criticism of her appointment and the commission itself, she said: 'As Hong Kong's educated woman has been able to succeed in the traditional environment, so we will see the Women's Commission succeed as a happy medium, not too high-sounding, not too confrontational.'

But Association for the Advancement of Feminism organiser Lam Wai-ha said several women's groups had misgivings about the effectiveness of the commission under Mrs Leung.

'We have never heard Mrs Leung defend or advance women's rights, and seriously doubt the sincerity of the Government,' Ms Lam said.

'The commission has no enforcement power - it's worse than the Equal Opportunities Commission, which can at least take the Government to court.' She suggested the commission carry out a gender audit on all government policies to gauge their impact on women.

'She has the attitude that if you give them training, life will improve, but there's a lack of opportunity and lack of equality to reckon with as well,' Ms Lam said.