Rights groups welcome 'overdue' proposals on rape laws
Rights groups hail report, six years after a court ruled that a law criminalising sex between men under 21 was unconstitutional
Rape-victim and transgender rights groups welcomed proposals by the Law Reform Commission to change the law on sexual offences, but voiced concerns, particularly over provisions on anal sex which the commission did not address.
They also said the proposals were long overdue, coming six years after a court ruled that a law criminalising sex between men under 21 was unconstitutional.
The report has proposed that rape should include offences committed against both sexes and cover anal or oral as well as vaginal penetration. It said the definition of sexual organs should include those surgically constructed, which would mean rape would cover transsexuals. It also called for a new offence covering sexual assaults in which the penis was not used and recording images up women's skirts.
But it postponed consideration of provisions criminalising various forms of consensual anal intercourse, which critics said could leave a man facing charges of both rape and buggery.
"Since the court's ruling in the Billy Leung case back in 2006, the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community has been waiting for the government to amend the discriminatory sexual offences on the statute books that were ruled unconstitutional by the court," human rights lawyer Michael Vidler said, referring to William Leung, whom he represented in a successful judicial review of the under-21 law. "The government has dragged its heels and the statute books still do not reflect the court's ruling."
He said the commission had gone further, recommending reforms that "not only do away with discriminatory sexual offences on the statute books, but also recommends that the LGBT community be accorded the same protections, in respect of sexual offences, as heterosexuals".
Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, who revealed he was gay last week after winning a seat in the Legislative Council, said it was unfair to males that the definition of rape protected only females.
Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, a member of sexual rights group Rainbow Action, said: "If the law can see the needs and protect the rights of sexual minorities, that's a positive step."
Joanne Leung, chairwoman of the Transgender Resource Centre, said there was now "very clearly" discrimination against transsexuals. "If a transsexual were raped, will they call the police? No, because there is no legislation in place and they know they don't stand a chance."
Linda Wong Sau-yung, executive director of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, said there were gaps in the legislation that made it difficult to prosecute in many cases - for example, use of a spy-cam in a private setting.
The report does not deal with existing consensual buggery offences, which the commission has left for later. Vidler said the government should not use this as an excuse to further delay other reforms.
The Security Bureau said it would seriously consider the recommendations.