Sexual harassment in the Hong Kong workplace
As sexual harassment is a serious problem in the Hong Kong workplaces, this essay will talk about the situation of sexual harassment and some of the negative effects this may have. At the end, we will also make some possible solutions to deal with the negative impact of it.
Firstly, sexual harassment will be defined before describing the problem. According to Shrier (1996), sexual harassment is a type of sexual discrimination which means the unwelcome body contact or verbal communication in the workplace or academia.
In Hong Kong, the Equal Opportunities Commission has a legal definition of Sexual Harassment as well. Under the Sexual Discrimination Ordinance, “If a person who is sexual harasser, he/she makes unwelcome sexual advances or unacceptable request for sexual favors or makes other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It may causes the persons who have been sexually harassed may feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. Also it is prohibited in all environments. ”
We may find that the above definitions are not clear. It is difficult to define the meaning of “unwelcome” and “unacceptable”. Furthermore, the definition is applied in all environments which are not specific. So it seems that lack of clear, concise, widely accepted definition of sexual harassment in the workplace.
There are 2 categories of sexual harassment, which is sexual coercion and sexual annoyance. First, sexual coercion is sexual harassment that results in some direct consequences to the victim’s employment. For example, a staff may face the sexual harassment from his employer or superior. If the staff accedes to the superior’s sexual solicitation, job benefits will follow. Conversely, if the subordinate refuses, job benefits are denied.
Second, Sexual annoyance is sexually related behavior that is offensive or intimidating to the victim but no direct link to any job benefit. However, the annoying behavior creates an uncomfortable working environment, which the victim has to bear in order to continue working.
Nowadays, sexual harassment is a quiet serious problem in the workplace. Referring to the statistics of Sexual Discrimination in August of 2012, there are 310 cases handled by Equal Opportunities Commission. The sexual discrimination mainly includes the sexual harassment and the pregnancy discrimination. Also the Equal Opportunities Commission received 292 cases on employment field and 18 cases on non-employment field. Obviously, the sexual discrimination mostly happened in the employment field.
Besides, the statistics from sexual discrimination, there is some news to indicate the situation on sexual harassment such as Ta Kung Pao Newspaper reported the annual Equal Opportunities Commission meeting in 2012. Besides, there are many newspapers reporting about sexual harassment such as Ta Kung Pao. Comparing with 2011, it received 72 cases and the number is decreased. But it also means that it received one complaint case on every 5 days. So, the situation of sexual harassment is still serious in Hong Kong.
Actually, female is mostly the victim of sexual harassment. There are some evidences to prove this situation such as Sing Tao Newspaper. It had tried to explore the gender inequality in Hong Kong. They discovered that women always face discrimination in workplace such as sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. But, most of the companies don’t know how to handle these cases. On the other hand, Sing Tao Newspaper had reported the situation in Hong Kong. They refer to the survey conducted by Association for the Advancement of Feminism. In 2011,it investigates the situation of sexual harassment in workplace hey interview 203 women and discover that 73% of the women probably face the sexual harassment. Also, 32% interviewees admit that they already face the problem. However, they did not know how to do and did not report to the EOC. They ignore or leave job.
Now, we have some assumptions about women are likely to be the victims. First of all, it is about a traditional concept between men and women. Traditionally, men always be a leader and manipulate the others but women always in an inferior status. Traditionally, male is the leader and control everything and female acts as assistant. It makes man becomes easier to control woman in the workplace. Besides, an inappropriate and sexy dress code of women will also trigger the sexual harassment. However, women are unwilling to report when they suffered from sexual harassment. It is because they may feel embarrassed of talk about sexual harassment. Moreover, they may worry that complaining will only make matters worse and even loss the job.
The impact of sexual harassment can vary depend on the individuality of the severity and duration of the harassment. In the workplace, sexual harassment usually makes victims feel really annoying. It may decrease their work performance as a result of stress conditions. Besides, some of the health effects that can occur in victims, such as headaches, nightmares, sleep disturbances, eating disorders as well as substance abuse. Moreover, sexual harassment may lead to temporary or prolonged stress. Psychologists say that sexual harassment can be deal with the psychological effects as sexual assault. Therefore, many psychological effects will occur in someone who has been sexually harassed. Victims may feel depression, anxiety or panic attacks. Sometimes, they may change in Self-Perception. They feel powerlessness or loss of confidence and self-esteem. Also, they may isolation themselves and lack of trust any people. They fear of new people and changes in social network patterns. More serious is that they may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even suicidal thoughts.
As sexual harassment in workplace become more serious in Hong Kong, not only the victims but also the government, company should take some actions to prevent the sexual harassment. In the following, we would provide several solutions to cope with sexual harassment in the workplace.
Firstly, the policy of sexual harassment is not specific enough in Hong Kong; the government can revise the explanation and make it clearly. In Hong Kong, there are two legally recognized types of sexual harassment is called ‘Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment’ and ‘Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment’.
According to Anna-Maria Marshall (2005), ‘Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment’ occurs when the victims submit or reject the sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature is used, it would affect the condition of employment. It shows the threat of economic loss and it usually happens between boss and subordinate.
According to Anna-Maria Marshall (2005), ‘Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment’ occurs when the unwelcome sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with the victims’ job performance or creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment. Although the sexual harassment may not result in tangible or economic job problems, the victims may lose pay or a promotion. Employers, supervisors, personnel or customers can also create the hostile work environment.
The above legally recognized types of sexual harassment are defined methodical. However, some complained that the law is not specific enough. For instances, as everyone have different opinions of the definition of the hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment, it would divided into two extreme situations. As some may thought that his behavior is normal social activities but some may claimed that it may make sadness because of the sexual conduct. Since the definition does not stated clearly, it would make misunderstanding between the victims and harassers. The government can revise the explanation of the policy in order to lessen the argumentative loopholes. If the definition of the hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment is clear, it would easier for the victims or harassers know that whether their behavior has broken the law.
Furthermore, sexual harassment from the relationship of direct employment is not included in those two types of sexual harassment in Hong Kong. It means the law only effective if the harasser is your boss or personnel. If the customers harassed them and the victims accuse them by other law, they cannot get any civil claims. The Equal Opportunities Commission has also request the government to revise the law for many years but still have no appellate. However, it is necessary for the government to revise the law and the ambit of the protection as to ensure the right of every employee.
No matter how firm victims reject the unwelcome touching, if they are not uniformly supported by their companies. Everything is in danger of being wasted. Therefore, agencies should take the responsibility to stop any behavior that could be considered as harassing. It is important that managers and supervisors should be trained in recognizing and dealing with sexual harassment.
Some victims complain that they lack support from companies and say that the companies cover up or neglect the complaints because the harasser is a valuable employee to the company. This reveals a double standard in this society. In some cases, victims are threatened by their supervisor or managers who are harassing them that if they complain they will be fired. Because of this, victims are often afraid of taking action or initiating legal proceeding.
If we want to address the problem of sexual harassment, we must face the troubles head on. In the passage below, we will suggest some feasible solutions for all companies.
First of all, with regard to supervisory authorities, companies need to select some suitable people for the supervisory job. Some companies assign supervisory jobs based on their real-world experience. However, management should assign someone who is skilled at managing people in a pinch to prevent sexual harassment in workplace. In addition, the supervisory team should be well-trained with the problem of sexual harassment. After they take the sexual harassment awareness training, they can become more
sensitive about sexual harassment issues and more aware of others’ feelings. This can help them to relate with victims of sexual harassment effectively.
Also, we need to pay attention to punishment. Companies should punish the harassers harshly. The penalties must be harsh enough to convince employees that the needs to company deal with the problem of sexual harassment seriously. The punishments of harasser should consistently implement as well. Therefore, others may deter the unwelcome touching in the workplace. Moreover, it is equally important to punish accusers who made wrong allegations to others.
Victims should ask or tell the harasser stop the unwanted sexual conduct firmly. For example, employees can keep their body posture and attitude strong to make a signal for the harasser. If the harasser do not realizes the signal, the victims can warn or protest against the actions with words, behavior, or through a letter. Moreover, the victims can prevent having social activities alone with the harasser. These are some useful methods for the victims to create boundaries with the harasser. However, some victims may choose to ignore the situation and keep it to themselves. The harasser may continue with the unwelcome behavior if you do not refuse her/him firmly.
Victims can also get legal help with sexual harassment in the workplace. There are some formal steps for the victims to stop the sexual conduct effectively. In some serious cases, they can report the behavior to the supervisor and take legal action as soon as possible. They need to keep all available evidence. If possible, get your colleagues to be witnesses in the court. It will help if you decide to file a lawsuit against Indecent assault. If the victims keep silent or evade the problem, the problem may prevalent in the future. Moreover, they can ask the Equal Opportunities Commission for assistance.
To summarize, this essay illustrated the situation of sexual harassment and its negative effects in the workplace. Victims are unwilling to report when they suffered sexual harassment. Some of the health effects and psychological effects can occur in victims. To solve this problem, it is important for the government, companies, and victims take actions to prevent the sexual harassment.
Courtney from Study Moose
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