Hong Kong watchdog fears sexual harassment underreported in social service sector
Equal Opportunities Commission survey of 51 organisations throws up just four complaints of abuse
A watchdog says it has found worrying signs of serious underreporting of sexual harassment after only two out of 51 social service groups surveyed reported such complaints in the past year.
The Equal Opportunities Commission blamed the low number of complaints, four in total, on poor awareness among employees and a shortage of reporting channels.
Its director of policy, Ferrick Chu Chung-man, said 30 to 40 per cent of the hundreds of complaints they received each year involved sexual harassment and the report rate in the social service sector was far too low.
“The smaller the number, the more we worry,” he said.
He said the sector deserved more attention and resources since it involved so many people, and many service users, such as the handicapped, were vulnerable to harassment.
The survey, conducted from August to November last year, found that 25 of the 51 organisations – all members of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service – had no written anti-sexual harassment policy.
Chu said the Social Welfare Department guidelines on service quality standards should specify sexual harassment was also a form of sexual abuse.
The council said while all organisations subsidised by the department had to have anti-sexual harassment policies, some did not receive grants. There are over 500 social service organisations with 60,000 staff, but only 165 receive government funding.
The department said it would take the commission’s recommendations into account.