FAQ on Sexual Harassment
What is sexual harassment?
X sexually harasses Y if X makes an unwelcome conduct of sexual nature in which a reasonable person would anticipate that Y would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Examples include telling unwelcome sex jokes, sending offensive pornographic e-mails, and making unwelcome sexual advances.
There is another definition of sexual harassment: A sexually harasses B if A engages in a conduct of sexual nature, which creates a sexually hostile or intimidating work environment for B. For example, A posts up pornographic posters in his room that embarrasses his secretary who needs to enter his room frequently.
Apart from these 2 definitions, a third definition of sexual harassment has been added to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance and our equal opportunity policy i.e. sexually hostile educational environment. It covers verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment. Examples may include: a. having sexually suggestive slogans during orientation making some students feel humiliated; b. telling sex jokes publicly in a Hall making some other students feel offended and c. using sexually suggestive cartoons to teach a subject that is not related to sex making some students feel uneasy.
What is not sexual harassment?
A conduct is not sexual harassment if it is not of sexual nature, or not unwelcome. For example, a professor commented a student as "stupid!" in front of a class when the latter answered a simple question wrongly. This conduct is unwelcome but is not of sexual nature. Another example is that a male student kisses a female classmate sexually. This is a conduct of sexual nature. Nevertheless, if the female student welcomes this conduct because he is her boyfriend, it is not sexual harassment.
Is sexual harassment against the law?
Yes, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Chapter 480 of the Laws of Hong Kong, provides that sexual harassment is unlawful.
Given sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, who is to decide whether a conduct is unwelcome?
Whether the conduct is unwelcome by the aggrieved person is determined by the reasonable person test.
Is it possible for a person to be sexually harassed by someone of his/her own gender?
Yes. Sexual harassment may occur regardless of the gender of the parties.
Is it possible to commit sexual harassment unintentionally?
Yes, because the intention of the alleged harasser is irrelevant when considering whether the behaviour amounts to sexual harassment. Having no intention to harass is not a defence in sexual harassment cases. For example, a student has mistakenly sent his classmate an offensive pornographic email.
Is it true that some sexual harassment cases constitute criminal offences?
Yes. Some types of sexual harassment are criminal offences. An example is indecent assault.
Who has the right to lodge a complaint?
Any student or staff of the University or anyone who has dealings with the University is entitled to complain against any University member.
How can one lodge a complaint?
Please refer to paragraph 18 to 58 of Procedures for handling discrimination/harassment complaints which can be found at http://www.eounit.hku.hk/complaints-enquiries/procedures
Besides, one can lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission or start civil proceedings at the District Court or report to the police.
If the aggrieved person did not tell the harasser that the behaviour was unwelcome at all, can the former complain afterwards?
Yes. A complaint of sexual harassment can be lodged even if the aggrieved person did not inform the harasser that the behaviour was unwelcome. However, raising objection explicitly is a strong evidence to show that the conduct is unwelcome.
Is there a time limit for the lodging of complaints?
No time limit is imposed for lodging sexual harassment complaints. However, the complainant is recommended to take action as soon as possible.
Can the complaint be lodged if sexual harassment takes place outside the University campus?
Yes, as long as the Respondent is a University member, it does not matter where the alleged behaviour has taken place. For example, a staff sexually harasses a colleague in a karaoke restaurant. The aggrieved person can still lodge a complaint afterwards.
Can a senior staff make a complaint of sexual harassment against a staff of a lower position?
Yes. A complaint can be lodged by anyone against another person regardless of the rank of the parties concerned.
Will the University keep the information provided by the complainant confidential?
Yes, the University will keep all information and documents of a complaint in strict confidence according to applicable laws on the protection of personal information.