All but eight of the 79 organisations belonging to Hong Kong’s sports authority had worked out policies or codes of conduct regarding sexual harassment as of last year, a substantial jump from only 28 some two years ago, according to a new survey released on Monday by the city’s equality watchdog.
But in spite of the apparent progress, the Equal Opportunities Commission found the policies of over half of those organisations were still inadequate.
The commission’s study sought to find out how effective the anti-sexual harassment policies were at the associations under the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong. Similar studies were conducted in 2014 and 2018.
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Findings of the latest survey, conducted between May and October last year, showed 71 of the 79 sports clubs under the federation had formulated sexual harassment reporting policies or codes of conduct for coaches. Only 28 had done so as of 2018, up from 20 in 2014.
The commission’s executive director, Dr Ferrick Chu Chung-man, said he was pleased with the substantial increase in sports clubs taking action over the years, which he partly attributed to the commission’s campaign some two years ago urging the government to cut funding for those who declined to act.
“Now all the 60 subvented [government-recognised] sports associations have formulated an anti-sexual harassment policy or a code of conduct,” said Jimmy Lo Ting-yu, a policy, research and training officer with the commission.
While the commission did not name the organisations without a policy or code of conduct, it said they were mainly small, self-financed sports associations.
Referring to the eight associations that still lacked a policy, Chu noted that they might not have the capacity – or the incentive – to come up with guidelines, unlike their government-subsidised counterparts.
“For those self-financed clubs, they might not have the necessary resources to do it,” he said, adding that one such club did not even maintain a website. “We will continue to make the best effort to encourage them to formulate and implement an anti-sexual harassment policy or code of conduct.”
Meanwhile, of the sports clubs with anti-sexual harassment policies, an analysis by the commission found that only 27 had ones that were satisfactorily comprehensive, containing all the key elements, such as procedures for dealing with complaints and possible disciplinary action.
The commission’s study found that some 20 sports clubs did not make it clear in their policies that the complainant would not be punished as long as the report was made in good faith, and 16 had no designated staff members to handle complaints. Eighteen did not contain measures to prevent sexual harassment.
Monday’s study also found 45 of the sports associations required their prospective employees and coaches to undergo a check to verify they had no record of criminal convictions for specified sexual offences. Only 25 required such checks in 2018, up from 15 in 2014.
Kitty Lam Kit-yee, the commission’s chief policy, research and training officer, also said it would cooperate with the federation to organise workshops on sexual harassment.
“We will continue to work with the federation to promote a healthy, safe and sexual harassment-free environment in the sports sector,” Lam said.
Public concerns about sexual harassment in local sports have increased since 2017 after hurdler Vera Lui Lai-yiu said on her Facebook page that she had been sexually assaulted by a former coach 10 years before.
The post fed into the burgeoning #MeToo movement, which has since reinvigorated efforts to combat sexual abuse and harassment around the world.
The commission said it had received 506 sexual harassment complaints between January 2017 and November 2020, representing some 45 per cent of all the complaints received by the watchdog under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance.
Meanwhile, the commission has also launched a new hotline, at 2106 2222, to be manned by a dedicated team known as the Anti-Sexual Harassment Unit to handle public enquiries and promote awareness.
Ricky Chu Man-kin, the commission’s chairman, said the unit would also study the existing ordinance to see what improvements could be made.