United call to promote sex equality

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 December, 1993, 12:00am

LEGISLATORS passed a motion last night urging the Government to promote equality of the sexes in Hong Kong.

Legislators of different factions passed unanimously a motion moved by legislator Peggy Lam Pei Yu-dja, asking the Government to adopt the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Woman (CEDAW) and enforce anti-sex discrimination legislation.

Secretary for Home Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yeung said the legislators' stance would have an important bearing on his recommendation to the Executive Council on the way forward.

The present public consultation exercise on the Government's Green Paper on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men will end this month.

If the CEDAW was adopted, Mr Suen said the Government would have to submit to wide-ranging obligations.

''We will need to institute measures which may be legislative or non-legislative in nature in order to implement the provisions of the convention,'' he said.

''Legislative measures will set out in some detail acceptable standards of behaviour while non-legislative measures will seek to influence people's attitudes and norms.'' But legislators speaking in the two-hour debate yesterday said the Government had done too little to remove inequalities.

Mrs Lam said that during her recent Beijing visit, Chinese officials had supported the extension of CEDAW to the territory.

The Director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Lu Ping, had stated clearly that the Basic Law protected not only the male but also the female indigenous residents of the New Territories, she said.

Legal sector representative Simon Ip Sik-on said the Government had taken a back seat in promoting sex equality.

''I do not want to label the Government a 'male chauvinist', but it seems to content itself with the saying that 'it is a woman's virtue to be ignorant' and it has reinforced that there is little it can do to change the stereotyped role of women,'' he said.

Mr Ip said gender inequality was evident in the disparity between median incomes for men and women, as women's median income was 77 per cent that of men's.

He also cited statistics which showed that only 24.2 per cent of managers and administrators were women, while 68.6 per cent of clerks were women.

United Democrat legislator Lau Chin-shek said there were still companies which were reluctant to recruit women.

''The China Motor Bus Company did not recruit female drivers because it did not want to set up female toilets in its depots,'' he said.

Liberal Party legislator Miriam Lau Kin-yee said the Government had understated the unfairness Hong Kong women faced in the Green Paper.

Independent legislator Christine Loh Kung-wai reiterated her desire that equal pay legislation should be introduced.