Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)

Study to shed light on sex discrimination: Equal Opportunities Commission

Discriminatory acts and possible legislation come under scrutiny in an EOC initiative

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 3:51am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 12:20pm

The city is embarking on a study into gender bias and the feasibility of laws to protect the rights of sexual minorities, the anti-discrimination watchdog says.

The independent research will cover practical scenarios that sexual minorities encounter, including in school or the workplace, and their access to public services.

It would be completed by the beginning of next year, the Equal Opportunities Commission said.

Chinese University's gender studies centre, which is assigned to the job, has its work cut out: three public forums, each involving about 400 people; focus groups with participants offering a range of views; telephone surveys; and analysis of legal issues.

"We're braced for the task," said Ferrick Chu Chung-man, head of policy and research at the commission.

The watchdog is filling a gap in studying the issue of protecting and empowering LGBT, or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, as gay-rights activists have criticised the government for procrastinating on developing the relevant laws. Instead of putting the issue to public consultation, the government set up a committee last June to advise on sex discrimination.

Chu said he expected to see groups ready to discredit the study as biased and beyond the commission's jurisdiction, given its stance that legislation would protect sexual minorities from discrimination.

"We will be as hands-off as possible. Only if there were obvious and major mistakes in the research would we point it out," he said. "Chinese University is a reputable research organisation, and we are just trying to find out more substantial facts."

Choi Chi-sum, of the Society for Truth and Light, said the study did fall outside the commission's scope. "This will be the first time it does a research report with public funds on a topic without the provision of a law," he said.

Choi was also concerned about its fairness, given commission chairperson Dr York Chow Yat-ngok's high-profile support for the LGBT community.

The suggestion that the report was beyond the commission's remit was "ridiculous", said Professor John Erni, of LGBT rights advocacy group Pink Alliance.

"An education organisation is mandated to do education work. The commission is an organisation mandated to be a watchdog against injustice and inequality, so of course studying related issues is what they do. What else do you expect them to do?"

Erni said the government committee worked within limitations, and its study, due this year, would not show the full picture.