Last Thursday, TWF submitted a response to the Hong Kong Government’s Public Consultation on the fourth report for the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
CEDAW is an international bill of rights for women and girls. Participating in the process provides an important opportunity for increased international pressure, media attention and Government focus on areas that can be improved and strengthened to better serve women and girls.
Surprisingly for a global financial centre, the position of women in Hong Kong lags behind other developed markets and some of our regional neighbours. For example, Hong Kong’s gender pay gap is at 22% (higher than Singapore, UK, US and Australia); maternity leave in Hong Kong falls below international standards at 10 weeks and 80% pay – well below Singapore and Mainland China; women are consistently under-represented in leadership positions beginning from 29% of management positions (lower than Malaysia) all the way to the Boardroom where women represent only 13.8% of directors of HSI companies – far lower than US, UK and Australia.
Since our inception, TWF has consistently participated in the CEDAW process and we feel TWF must continue to lead the way in highlighting much needed reforms to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls and to encourage the Hong Kong Government to pursue policies to enable women to fully participate in all aspects of life in Hong Kong.
The Government will be reviewing all submissions and considering their recommendations to incorporate into their final report sent in to the UN CEDAW Committee this autumn. After the Government submits the final report, organisations will have the opportunity to review the report and submit responses that support the Government’s stances where appropriate and call for further action and reform where needed. These reports will be read in full by the UN CEDAW Committee.
Here are a few highlights of recommendations from TWF’s submission:
Insufficient protections and preventive measures against sexual harassment and sexual assault: The Government should update the sex-education curriculum in schools in line with international best practice; amend laws related to sexual offences and harassment; add a specially trained unit to the Hong Kong Police Force to handle sexual assault cases, and collaborate with likeminded groups to promote public campaigns that help overturn social stigma faced by victims.
Lack of gender-segregated data: The Government should require clear objectives, regular tracking and transparent, comprehensive reporting measures within all government departments, bureaus, and other relevant organisations.
Inadequate provisions for caregivers: The Government should encourage the private sector to introduce and expand the availability of flexible working arrangements and to widen paid leave to include care days. Maternity and paternity leave should both be expanded in line with international standards with a long term view to adopt parental leave.
The feminisation of poverty: The Government should review and reformulate wage structures and welfare policies that disadvantage women, collaborate with other organisations that provide confidence and leadership building initiatives for this segment of the population, and provide workshops that educate the public about available support and subsidy schemes.
Underrepresentation of women in leadership positions: The Government should encourage gender diversity targets for listed companies at the board and management levels, conduct research on reasons which hinder women from political participation, and introduce initiatives to encourage the full and equal participation of women in political life, including raising awareness and collaborating with political parties.
Our full submission is available here.
Over the coming few weeks, we will be exploring a few of the areas more in depth so stay tuned and get involved!
As usual we would love to hear from you. Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.