Panel on Home Affairs
Meeting on 27 July 1998
Progress on Review of the SDO and the DDO
The Sex Discrimination Ordinance ("SDO") and the Disability Discrimination Ordinance ("DDO") became fully operational on 20 December 1996. The non-employment provisions of both Ordinances had come into effect on 20 September 1996.
Under the SDO, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of sex, pregnancy and marital status. It is also unlawful to victimise a person or to sexually harass a person. The areas to which the SDO applies include: employment, the provision of goods, services and facilities, education, disposal and management of premises, clubs, activities of the government and eligibility to vote for and be elected or appointed to advisory bodies.
Under the DDO, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of disability. It is also unlawful to victimise a person, to harass a person, or to vilify a person on the ground of disability. The areas to which the DDO applies are the same as those for the SDO, save and except for eligibility to vote for and be elected to advisory bodies. The DDO also includes the field of sport.
Review of the Legislation
Pursuant to the SDO and the DDO, the Equal Opportunities Commission ("the Commission") is tasked with the function of keeping under review the workings of both pieces of legislation. The Commission may submit to the Chief Executive proposals for amending the legislation if required to do so by the Chief Executive or if the Commission considers it necessary. The Commission also has a statutory duty to keep under review the various Schedules in the Ordinances.
In February 1997 the Commission decided that it would conduct a review of the SDO and the DDO at the end of that year, after it had twelve months operational experience behind it. The Commission identified three areas of review:
- provisions of the legislation which warranted review in terms of operational experience;
- provisions of the legislation which had caused operational difficulties; and
- drafting errors and / or defects in the legislation (including a review of the Chinese version of the legislation).
As a first step, the Commission in 1997 commenced by reviewing the provisions of Schedule 5 of the SDO. Schedule 5 contains eight items arising out of government policies, practices and regulations, which are discriminatory in nature but are exempted from the provisions of the SDO.
The Commission commenced its review of the substantive provisions of the SDO and the DDO at the beginning of 1998. It is expected that the review of the SDO and the DDO will be completed by the end of this year. The Commission intends to make recommendations for amendment to the Chief Executive following the completion of the review.
The Principles Behind the Review
The Commission has embarked on this review exercise with a commitment to the principle of equality between the sexes and between persons regardless of disability. The considerations are predicated on the premise that equal opportunities is a fundamental human right that is at the heart of a healthy economy and healthy society, and that must be mainstreamed into every aspect of life. The impetus behind the review has been the need to identify those provisions in the legislation which require amendment in light of the Hong Kong context in which the legislation operates, and in light of the Commission's own operational experience.
Equal Opportunities Commission