• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 3:35pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 March, 2014, 12:34am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 March, 2014, 12:34am

Female lawyer says it is ludicrous to ban ladies' nights


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

Our recent piece pointing out that under Hong Kong laws it is illegal for bars to stage ladies' nights where women are offered free drinks, has attracted a stern response from a female reader.

We reported that the Hong Kong Cricket Club was holding a ladies' night to mark International Women's Day, at which women would be offered free drinks. That is until it was pointed out by one of its members that this would breach the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, and so the club dropped the free drinks.

However, "offended member of the public," as she calls herself, writes to say: "I just wanted to say how incensed I was to read Lai See ... suggesting that it was against the law for free drinks to be offered to ladies on international ladies' day."

The lady, who is herself a lawyer, goes on. "I would like to explain that the whole spirit of the anti-discrimination law was to protect ladies, or men if necessary, from sexual harassment and to ensure that they get equal and fair treatment in the work place. It was not designed to stop innocent bits of fun such as a celebration of ladies' day or a free ladies' night in the bars."

She adds: "I have spoken to many members of the legal fraternity in this town who are of the same view. If someone really believes it is wrong to give away such freebies then I suggest he or she take [it] to Court and then have the matter settled once and for all. I am all for equal rights but this suggestion is just going too far and is ludicrous!"

A cursory view of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance shows that much of it indeed is concerned with harassment and employment. However, section 28 is explicitly headed "Discrimination in provision of goods, facilities or services" and appears to say that offering free drinks to women and not to men is discriminatory. The section is worded in terms of women, though elsewhere it is made clear that in most cases the word "woman" can be substituted for "man". We look forward to receiving further advice on this.


Sleepless in Wyndham Street

We wrote at length yesterday about Mr Justice Kevin Zervos' reasons for granting the Icon bar on Wyndham Street in Central, a judicial review against the conditions imposed on it by the Liquor Licensing Board. Much of this was to do with the conditions which were imposed on bars in an apparently arbitrary manner by the board in an effort to deal with the problem of noise.

However, a reader who is a long-term resident of Wyndham Mansion on Wyndham Street near the crossroads with Lan Kwai Fong urges us to highlight the "other side" of the story.

She says her location "bears the brunt of noise pollution" from the bars that are in Wyndham Street, and those in Lan Kwai Fong. "In an attempt to increase patronage, every bar, restaurant and club in this area tries to outdo the other and playing loud music seems to be one way of doing it."

While she says she is all in favour of business prosperity she does not understand why only some bars are required to close their doors and windows after 11pm. Her suggestion is that the licensing board should impose restrictions on playing loud music after a certain time on all bars. "There would be no injustice or discrimination then against anyone in particular. And, we could then expect, or insist on, the police enforcing the rule." She explains: "It used to be just the weekends when we would expect to spend sleepless nights; it is now pretty much any day of the week. A quiet night here seems to be the exception."


Paint the town purple

March is epilepsy awareness month in Hong Kong and Enlighten - Action for Epilepsy is launching a month-long campaign called "Paint the Town Purple" to encourage the people in Hong Kong to support those affected by epilepsy.

Purple (lavender) is the colour globally associated with epilepsy and is based on the idea that just as the lavender flower grows in seclusion, a person with epilepsy feels secluded. Enlighten believes that by building epilepsy awareness, it can improve the quality of lives of those affected by epilepsy.

Even today many people in Hong Kong with the condition prefer to remain silent for fear of isolation or discrimination. A number of bars and retail outlets are supporting the charity. For the numerous ways you can lend support over the next month go to http://bit.ly/1dyqalb, and http://on.fb.me/1eJ8Vtv.


Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com


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This article is now closed to comments

I believe that the law is the law. I don't think 'innocent bits of fun' should be excuses to deviate from its provision. After all, sexual harassment in, say, the office could be viewed as that too, couldn't it, especially from the perpetrator's point of view?
While this law refers to sex discrimination, ask yourself whether this would be "innocent fun" if we substituted men for some other group, such as Filipinos, or Africans, or gay people. Would that still be "innocent fun"?
Dai Muff
Ladies nights ARE sexist. Their aim is to use women as bait to draw in blokes, which is about as sexist as you can get. Sick of those stupid women who want equality when it suits them, but want the perks of sexism when that is to their benefit. And the fact there is an International Ladies' Day without a corresponding one for men is already sexist.
I always thought that Ladies nights were discrimination against women? I am pretty sure they are. Bars offer ladies nights to bring out men who will pick up the women. The more women then the more men who will come also. Thus increase the amount of $$$ earned. Free drinks could also cause an increase the amount a lady may drink thus not very good for their health / safety (having to pay for drinks keeps the consumption by males / females down).
Except for private clubs (who do it for fun) I believe all ladies nights are about $$$ and not actually about empowering women. (even private clubs may do it to bring out more men for events)
Like all good intentions, the implications can result in the most ridiculous situations. Take the Human Rights legislation, in Britain you can't deport a criminal now because of their right to "family life" if they have a family, or a cat, in the United Kingdom.
Personally, I think it is a fantastic idea to give the girls a treat on International Women's Day, or on any day for that matter.
It may not be sensible but when is David Webb ever incorrect? Hardly ever.
The sex discrimination laws resulted in the HKP cancelling its necessary annual fitness tests because it laid down different standards for men and wome. Hence all the overweight cops you now see on the streets.
Very poignant and in a sense, reflects views that equality comes from a natural change of society's values, not through legislation. We see the same thing happening in legislating the number of women on a Board or the number of women you HAVE to hire in general. It is a hammer for a problem that probably is more suited towards using a brush. Its a tricky road when you start cherry-picking and only interpreting policies that benefit your gender or group.
I guess we will never have the Olympics here then unless the men's 100m & decathlon are open to women, etc ?
Does anyone know if Webb attended the HKCC event?
Needs proper interpretation:
28 1) It is unlawful for any person concerned with the provision (for payment or not) of goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public to discriminate against a woman who seeks to obtain or use those goods,facilities or services-
(a) by refusing or deliberately omitting to provide her with any of them; or
(b) by refusing or deliberately omitting to provide her with goods, facilities or services of the like quality,
in the like manner and on the like terms as are normal in his case in relation to male members of the public or (where she belongs to a section of the public) to male members of that section.


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