Zenneth Ng Cheuk-ling, an organiser from the Hong Kong Women’s Work Association, says many victims respond in the same way as Chau when they encounter sexual harassment. “People want to hide anything relating to sex…they think it is shameful and do not know how to talk about it,” says Ng. She thinks the EOC should provide more sex education to increase public awareness.
But it is not just embarrassment or shame that is preventing victims from reporting cases of harassment. Ng says they fear they will be sacked if they file a complaint. In the case of product promoters, the supermarket can call the product suppliers to terminate the service of a product promoter without giving any reason. The product suppliers will usually do as the supermarket requests since they rely on them to sell their products.
Ng’s observation shows that a company’s attitude in dealing with complaints greatly affects how employees respond to and handle incidences of sexual harassment. However, most companies lack awareness of the issue of sexual harassment. An EOC survey entitled “Sexual Harassment – Questionnaire Survey for Business Sector” published in August found that only 3 per cent of the companies approached even bothered to respond to the survey. Among the respondents, only 57 per cent had adopted a policy statement on sexual harassment.
Ellen Cheng Lai-yee, the chairman of Hong Kong Disneyland Cast Member’s Union, says the amended ordinance will only be effective if companies provide information to assist employees on handling sexual harassment. “The company and the employee, also the labour union should work together after the SDO is amended. The company should clarify how to handle the cases and help the victims when sexual harassment really happens. Females maybe very reluctant to express themselves on this issue,” Cheng says.
Indeed, by sweeping the problem under the carpet for so long, Hong Kong society has become numb to the humiliation of sexual harassment that workers experience on a daily basis – including the victims themselves. “Working in the service industry, I am used to this kind of sexual harassment,” says Yuet, a supermarket product promoter. “There is just too much of it.”
Edited by Amy Leung