Rape law outdated, Law Reform Commission says

Recommendations include changes intended to achieve gender neutrality

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 6:05pm


It is time Hong Kong brought its decades-old rape law into line with the English model, to include offences between two males, the Law Reform Commission recommended yesterday.

The definition of rape should be broadened to include anal and oral penetration of people of both sexes, it said in a consultation paper about reviewing sexual offences.

It said these recommendations were intended to achieve gender neutrality in the law - an aim widely welcomed by rights advocates.

"We agree that the law on sexual offences should avoid distinctions based on sexual orientation," the commission said.

The paper also calls for photographs taken up women's skirts to be considered a form of sexual assault, a new category replacing the current indecent assault.

Panel chairman Peter Duncan SC called it "unsatisfactory" that, currently, people who take such photographs can only be convicted indirectly - such as through laws against loitering or of having access to a computer with dishonest intent.

Once the offence was reclassified, offenders' identities would be available in the sex-criminal register, said panel member Eric Cheung Tat-ming, assistant law professor at the University of Hong Kong.

Further, Cheung said: "An exhibitionist who shows his private parts in front of a woman … could be convicted of sexual assault."

Another new category proposed is "sexual assault by penetration", which covers penetration by "objects, or other parts of one's body [than a penis] … like fingers", Duncan said.

The consultation paper also suggests changing the law on consent, noting that a defendant can now be acquitted by claiming - however unreasonably - that he subjectively believed the plaintiff had consented to sexual contact.

This round of consultation, which runs until December 31, does not touch upon punishments.