Zonta clubs in Hong Kong advocate for legal reform on sexual offences

Advocating for legal reforms on sexual offences is a challenging assignment in Hong Kong. The current laws have been in place for more than 60 years and are in urgent need for reform. During this biennium, the Zonta Club of Kowloon and other Zonta clubs in Hong Kong adopted a persistent and intensive approach to ensure their advocacy received attention in the community. Through the following efforts, the club is delighted to receive some initial success.

Submission to Hong Kong Government’s consultation paper on Proposed Introduction of Offences on Voyeurism, Intimate Prying, Non-consensual Photography of Intimate Parts and Related Offences, October, 2020
Zonta Club of Kowloon submitted views on the Proposed Introduction of Offences on Voyeurism, Intimate Prying, Non-consensual Photography of Intimate Parts and Related Offences in October, 2020. After thorough discussion led by our Advocacy & Legal Committees, the club submitted views to the Hong Kong Government, including the following points:

  • Offenders should be prosecuted irrespective of their motives.
  • For non-consensual photography of intimate parts, both ‘up skirting’ & ‘down blousing’ should be included. 
  • Offenders should not be allowed to argue on ground of reasonable excuse, as this would create ambiguity to escape conviction. 
  • The victims’ consent would be required for the distribution of images of intimate acts. 
  • Once prosecuted, details of the offenders should be included in the ‘Sexual Conviction Record Check Scheme.’ 

Consultation Paper on Sentencing & Related Matters in the Review of Sexual Offences

  • On 12 November 2020, the Review of Sexual Offences Sub Committee of the Law Reform Commission published a consultation paper for the reform of law in relation to sentencing and related matters in the review of sexual offences. 
  • Zonta Club of Kowloon has also made a detailed submission to Hong Kong government in February 2021. We advocate that judges should be provided with powers to make mandatory treatment orders for offenders, and to obtain presentencing psychological or psychiatric assessment reports. 

Inclusion of prosecution of such offences as in Part XII AA of Crimes (Amendment) Bill 2021 

  • We are happy to see that the government has produced a legislative proposal after examining the views received during the public consultation.
  • In the Crimes (Amendment) Bill 2021 of which the first reading was tabled at Legislative Council on March 24, 2021, the offences of Voyeurism, Non consensual Recording of Intimate Parts and Related Image Publication Offences are proposed in a new section Part XII AA. 
  • For offence of voyeurism, contravention will attract a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment. 
  • For non-consensual recording of intimate parts for sexual purpose or for a dishonest gain, there will be a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment. As per our proposals, both “upskirting” and “down-blousing” are included.
  • The publication of intimate images without consent, & non-consensual recording of intimate images would constitute an offence.
  • Offences of voyeurism or non- consensual recording of intimate parts will be included under the Sexual Conviction Record Check Scheme for the better protection of children and mentally incapacitated persons from sexual abuse. 

Some initial success 
Through the above efforts, the Zonta Club of Kowloon has played a contributing part in urging the Hong Kong Government and the Justice Department to implement necessary legal reforms. With development of media channels and cyberspace, we need to safeguard the privacy and safety of women and girls. The trauma inflicted on victims can be lifelong, and it can crush the victims’ self-esteem forever. Advocating for legal reform on sexual offences is a long journey - it requires continuous efforts step-by step, month after month, to advance our advocacy goals. 

In addition, Hong Kong government asked for public consultation on the paper. The Zonta Club of New Territories II initiated a paper to the government’s call. Club President Maggie Tsui reported this advocacy work at Area 2’S joint club meeting. joint clubs meeting of Area 2. To join the effort, all seven Hong Kong clubs submitted a paper.