Is Hong Kong free from sexual harassment? No! There is no place on this earth free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is illegal in every country and there are laws in place to protect the vulnerable, but many of those laws are inactive. Why?
Many girls have experienced some form of sexual harassment but have rarely taken any action or even spoken up against their attackers. “I was once touched inappropriately, but I just walked away,” said Kelly Kwan, a Year 2 local student at the Education University of Hong Kong (EdHK). “I was shy,” she explained.
Remaining quiet can encourage attackers to be more aggressive, and this may eventually lead to rape. The silence of sexual harassment victims sends a clear message to harassers that it is okay to assault women. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), one in every five women has experienced sexual assault on campus. Many university students that I talked to were well aware that sexual harassment is illegal, yet many victims failed to report such crimes. “I will only report the case if it is a serious one,” said Zhang Xnying , a student at City University.
No matter how minor the assault is, it still counts as a criminal act. You should just tell the harasser to stop if any of his actions or words are bothering you. Simply walking away is not the solution, because the harasser may continue to target other women if he feels he can get away with it. If you confront him for his disrespectful behavior, he may then become hesitant to repeat it again in the future. Taking action can help you prevent sexual harassment in the wider community.
“I was touched inappropriately on the MTR once and I yelled at the harasser,” said Michelle Ng, a student from The University of Hong Kong (HKU). Yes, girl – that’s the way to deal with it!
The slogan against sexual harassment, “no one asks for it,” aims to tell victims not to blame themselves. A woman wearing a short skirt is no excuse for sexual predators to justify their unlawful behavior. You have the right to wear whatever you want and ill-intentioned harassers can not do anything to make you feel uncomfortable because of it. Even if the harasser holds a higher position in the workplace, his actions must be condemned and reported.
Among all the university students I talked to, only a few of them knew where to report sexual harassment cases on campus. Students urgently need to be aware that anyone could be a potential victim of sexual assault. They themselves and even their friends are all vulnerable. Thus, they need to know how to respond appropriately. Students can file complaints at the Equal Opportunities Unit on campus where counselling and support services are also available.
Harassers are not always strangers. They could also be close acquaintances of the victim. Therefore, it is essential to prevent students from falling prey to potential offenders through early education. “There are sex education seminars held every semester,” said Alexandra Chung, a student at HKU, “but they are not very helpful.” To reduce the number of sexual harassment cases in the future, schools need to make an effort to raise awareness about the issue.
As of now, we can all be a part of the collective endeavor in preventing sexual harassment in public areas, workplaces and university campuses. So “Speak Up! And Say No to Sexual Harassment!”
Writer: Pan Pwint
Editor: Chung Wai Ling, Joy
Copy Editors: Amrita Mangho and Lexie Ma Xiaochi