Tomorrow marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the start of the annual 16 days of activism to accelerate progress towards ending all forms of violence against women and girls, in turn, creating a safer world for people of all genders.
Earlier this month, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) released a report surveying the public’s awareness on equal opportunities issues. It was encouraging to note that 2 out of 3 top focus areas that the public feel the EOC should concentrate on are related to tackling sexual harassment. 90% of respondents supported the reform of sex education in primary and secondary schools to more effectively raise awareness about sexual harassment and 91% agreed that the EOC should prioritise helping businesses and organisations implement anti-sexual harassment policies and mechanisms to handle sexual harassment complaints. We are hopeful this increased awareness and collective push to tackle sexual harassment will evolve into actions to comprehensively address all areas of gender-based violence in this city.
However, the situation for women and girls in Hong Kong remains concerning, particularly over this past period under the pandemic. While domestic violence and online violence disproportionately affects women and girls, some groups face particular vulnerabilities from increases in forced marriages due to economic hardship brought on by the pandemic to increased abuse towards Migrant Domestic Workers. We know there are many more groups who were at a higher risk of gender-based violence – gender and sexual minorities, asylum seekers and women with disabilities, to name a few.
This mirrors much of what is happening globally. Later today, UN Women will be releasing a new report evidencing the devastating impact of the pandemic with 2 in 3 women reporting that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence since the start of COVID-19. The report also shows women’s feelings of safety at home and in public have deteriorated, with significant negative impacts on their mental and emotional well-being.
We know that it is critically important to acknowledge that people of all genders can be both victims and perpetrators of violence. And while men are more likely to be perpetrators of violence against women and others (including other men), the existence of gender-based violence is a deeply ingrained structural and systemic issue rooted in harmful gendered social norms and unequal power dynamics that harm everyone.
TWF is committed to tackling all forms of gender-based violence for the long term. Earlier this year, we were pleased to support the launch of Meta’s (formerly Facebook) #SheLeads Safety Guide. Our #MakePeopleCount campaign continues to serve as a foundation for our advocacy to push for critical updates to Government laws on sexual violence as well as reforms in education and business, among other areas. We also continue to raise awareness and build accountability among businesses and the general public to make change. Let’s use the global momentum from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to drive action to build an environment in Hong Kong that is safe for everyone.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.