On date 20th of May in 2010, Equal Opportunity Commission(EOC) issued legal proceedings under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 480) on behalf of a former school teacher who was forced to follow a restrictive dress code by the school authority. This case reflected that the dress code rule and implementation on female teachers are harsher than on their male counterparts. AAF is pleased to know that EOC provided legal assistance to the female teacher in pursuing her complaint to the court.
Gender stereotype deep-rooted in school management
This case actually represents a common practice in how school managements in Hong Kong (HK) impose unfair dress code requirements on female teachers. It reflects that the gender stereotype of how men and women should behave is still deep-rooted in the educational professions despite the fact that sex discrimination is prohibited by law and should be eliminated by gender mainstreaming. According to a survey done by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKRTU) in 2001, around 29% schools reported that they have this dress code for teaching staff. AAF hopes that this court case could draw the attention of all schools in Hong Kong regarding any gender bias or even discriminatory practices in their school managements. It is high time that all schools take real steps to adopt equal opportunity values and gender mainstreaming in their rules and regulations and teaching approach.
The Education Bureau turns a blind eye to discriminatory practices
It is known to AAF that years back, the complainant of this case once wrote to the Education Bureau to seek assistance since she was pressured by the school authority to follow the dress code rule strictly. However, the bureau officer refused to take up this case as they claimed that the dress code and the way the schools impose this practice is a kind of school-based measure which there is nothing wrong about.
The Bureau paid lip-services to promoting equal opportunities
The complainant of this case had made an enquiry to AAF on the adoption of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance on school-based management. In December of 2009, AAF requested the gender focal point of the Education Bureau to provide information on whether they have given any guidelines or code of practices on how to ensure equal opportunities in school-based management and how to build in gender mainstreaming in school policies. The Bureau simply replied that the Sex Discrimination Ordinance applies to all schools acts without any supporting evidence on how they ensure that schools prevent any discriminatory acts. Although the Women Commission has pushed forward gender mainstreaming to government policies and departments since 2002, it seems that the Education Bureau has not given out even a guideline to schools on this matter. The response of the Bureau officer to the complainant was obviously lacking gender sensitivity. More training on gender awareness to both frontline and managerial level staff members should be conducted.
Proactive measures should be taken to eliminate sex discrimination
AAF strongly urges the Education Bureau to eliminate discrimination and to promote equality with full commitment. Possible measures are suggested as follows.
- Conduct research or investigation on any hidden discriminatory practices and rules of Schools
- Provide guidelines and code of practices on how to implement gender mainstreaming in all level of policy making, teaching and school management
- Provide substantial gender training for staff of all levels with the help of EOC or women organizations
- Review educational policy and guidelines regularly with a gender mainstreaming checklist
Contact Person: Wing-Sze Choi (chairperson of AAF), 6026 7816/2720 0891