New group to advise government on discrimination issues

Team set up by government to help sexual minorities is expected to have more say and be more effective than abandoned forum

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 4:12am

A group has been set up to advise the government on eliminating discrimination against sexual minorities, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau announced yesterday.

The advisory group is chaired by Professor Fanny Cheung Mui-ching, Chinese University's first woman pro-vice-chancellor. It comprises 13 other members, who are either from the academic and business sectors, the sexual minorities community, or are lawmakers. Their appointments are for a two-year period.

The bureau said the group had yet to set a timetable or specific goals to eliminate discrimination faced by sexual minorities, but it would hold its first meeting in two weeks.

The group will take over the functions of the Sexual Minorities Forum, which gay-rights activists abandoned in March after saying it was merely a delaying tactic by the government and had not aided their cause.

Pink Alliance chairman Reggie Ho Lai-kit, who is a member of the advisory group, said the new body should be more effective than the forum, as it had a broad representation and would hold formal meetings.

"In the Sexual Minorities Forum, government officials weren't obliged to listen to us … But we should now have more respect from officials, and they will be more willing to help us," he said.

Meanwhile, the Equal Opportunities Commission is proposing that the government amend the law to better protect service providers from sexual harassment by customers.

Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful for a service provider to sexually harass a customer, but not vice versa.

The commission said that between last November and May, it received two cases in which a service provider was sexually harassed by a customer. One involved an air hostess, and the other, a foreign domestic worker.

Dr John Tse Wing-ling, the commission's policy and research committee convenor, said the law could also help to protect service providers from verbal sexual harassment.

Dora Lai Yuk-sim, Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union chairwoman, said the union welcomed the proposed law. "There is currently no specific law to protect air hostesses from sexual harassment. If such issues happen, they are considered only unruly behaviour," she said. Some passengers would verbally abuse air hostesses by asking them how much they cost for a night, she added.