The Hong Kong Council of Social Service
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Concern over Sexual Violence against Minority Women

Ethnic Minorities – HKCSS Channel      2015/09/30

Executive Director of Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, Ms Linda Wong, said that Sexual violence is defined as one person committing a sexual offence against another in speech, attitude and actions, causing the latter to feel humiliated and disturbed. A recent study reveals that one in every seven females in Hong Kong has encountered sexual violence.

According to Linda, usually only 40% of female victims of sexual assault would choose to seek help. Among Hong Kong women of South Asian heritage, the rate of them help-seeking and making police reports are even lower. Last three years, among 18 cases of minority women who sought help at RainLily, only 30% would make a police call. It is believed that this has to do with the low status of women in their cultures.

In fact, official figures are also on the low side. According to Social Welfare Department, there were only 76 cases of minority women seeking help for sexual violence in 2014. It is reckoned that this number is merely the tip of the iceberg. Linda mentioned that among ethnic minorities, women have a low status compared to men, who are deemed the most important. So when a woman is sexually assaulted, it is often blamed on the woman herself, e.g. it’s the woman who was behaving in an improper manner or that she was flirting with the man, thus resulting in sexual violence. The women will bear the brunt of the blame, which makes them unwilling to seek help. In fact, among the South Asian minorities, seeking help from outsiders can easily result in revenge attacks, or they and their families will be isolated or marginalized.

With the pressure from family and community, victimized minority women need to muster up quite a bit of courage to seek help or go to the police. Hence, public servants should be sensitive to victims’ feelings when handling such cases. SWD guidelines must be followed, such as allowing social workers to be present when victims are interviewed by the police and medical personnel, providing emotional support for the victims, and avoid upsetting them too much during the process. For ethnic minority women, interpretation services should be provided as a matter of course.

The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau issued the Administrative Guidelines on Promotion of Racial Equality in 2010, which are adopted by to 22 government bodies at the moment. The Guidelines stated that cultural sensitivity training should be provided to enable the staff to understanding the characteristics of ethnic minorities and cultural differences, as well as the collection of numerical data on ethnic minority service cases; and also communicate and evaluate the effectiveness of these services with stakeholders. These are to ensure that ethnic minorities have equal opportunities in obtaining services.

Linda hopes the government bodies will adhere to the Guidelines, e.g. providing interpretation services to ethnic minorities, as well as educating ethnic minorities and public servants, such as the police, medical staff and teachers, on the rights of ethnic minorities.