Hong Kong's schools unaware of how to deal with sexual harassment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 5:16am

Nearly half of the city's schools do not train teachers and students on how to deal with molestation issues or have stated policies against sexual harassment, the equality watchdog said yesterday, citing a survey.

The statistics came soon after another study found 50 per cent of students said they had been sexually harassed in the past.

"All schools have this problem. But we are in a state of denial. We're not brave enough to face it," Equal Opportunities Commission member John Tse Wing-ling said.

From telling offensive, sexrelated jokes to offering privileges in exchange for unethical deeds, schools were no different from commercial entities in terms of the problem's prevalence, commission policy and research committee convenor Tse said.

The fact that children could be involved made the problem worse, he said.

The latest study, conducted in March last year, found that 47 per cent of 321 schools involved said they did not have an established policy to handle sexual harassment, such as training teachers on its definition or establishing a complaint system.

Almost 70 per cent of the schools without such a mechanism said they had no plan to establish one.

More than 1,100 questionnaires were sent to schools, but a majority did not reply, Tse said, adding that the ignorance among schools over the issue might be more serious than indicated by the study.

Professional Teachers' Union president Fung Wai-wah said schools must first change the perception that "talking about sexual harassment means the school has a problem with it".

In an earlier survey, conducted in 2011, 3,000 of 6,000 students interviewed said they had experienced harassment.

Tse said the commission would start a campaign "to train the trainers" at schools and liaise with educators to raise awareness of the issues.