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Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres and Zonta Club of Kowloon co-organised a Parallel Event at the NGO CSW67 Forum

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The 67th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held in New York from 6 to 17 March 2023. The CSW Forum is a platform for NGOs, civil society organizations, and various individuals concerned with gender equality, women's and girls' rights, and empowerment for women and girls. Each year, parallel meetings are held during the CSW Conference.


On the eve of International Women's Day, the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres (HKFWC) and the Zonta Club of Kowloon organized an online "NGO Committee on the Status of Women" meeting on March 7.


The theme of the meeting was "Innovative and Technology Strategies for Addressing Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence in Asia". Seven speakers were invited, including Ms Winnie Teoh, Chairman of the Advocacy Committee of Zonta Club of Kowloon and former International Director of Zonta International, Ms Sisi Liu, Director of Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres, Ms Doris Chong, Executive Director of Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, Ms Sandy Sanchez Montano (Undersecretary/Chairperson of Philippine Commission on Women), Professor Carol Chih-chieh Lin, Distinguished Professor, School of Law at National Yang-Ming Chiao Tung University, Taiwan, Ms Busayapa Srisompong, a human rights lawyer and founder of SHero, an NGO in Thailand, and Ms Shailey Hingorani. (Senior Advisor for Advocacy, Research, and Communications Association of Women for Action and Research)


The seven speakers have years of experience advocating for women's violence issues and shared their valuable experience and information with 250 participants. The following is a summary of the speakers’ sharing. For more information about the conference, please watch the video recording of the conference:


Hong Kong's experience

Ms Winnie Teoh, Chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Zonta Club of Kowloon and former International Director of Zonta International, pointed out a serious lack of up-to-date statistics on violence against women worldwide, and the last study in Hong Kong was conducted in 2013. In 2021, the Zonta Club of Kowloon sponsored the "Women's Experiences of Violence in Hong Kong 2021" survey organised by the 'Hong Kong Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities.' 1,044 questionnaires were returned, and 30 in-depth interviews were conducted, and the report was released on March 7, 2022. The English and Chinese versions of the report were widely covered by major Chinese and English media in Hong Kong, creating awareness of violence against women in the community. The report reflects that 75% of women who experience violence do not take action, 39.7% of victims do not seek help, and women endure violence for three to four years.


The report makes a diversity of recommendations, including

  1. Relevant government departments must provide financial, housing, and crisis support for women facing violence;
  2. Employers must develop sexual harassment-related policies and staff training;
  3. The need to revisit the current procedural guidelines for handling sexual violence cases;
  4. The need to revisit the classification of police records of domestic violence;
  5. The need to increase training for front-line staff who need to handle sexual violence cases;
  6. The need to modernize the Family Court;
  7. The need to accelerate the reform of legislation related to sexual offences;
  8. The need to conduct public education through different media; and
  9. The need to address the issue of sexual violence in public transportation and schools.


The Zonta Club of Kowloon and Hong Kong Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities have submitted recommendations to relevant government departments, quasi-government bodies,  Law Reform Commission, police, social welfare organizations, transportation companies and schools. We hope the research and recommendations can help stakeholders in various sectors develop relevant policies and services. The Zonta Club of  Kowloon has subsequently publicized three NGO helplines for women in three major newspapers in Hong Kong, and two of them have seen a sharp increase in the number of calls from women.


Ms Sisi Liu, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres (HKFWC), gave an overview of the federation since its establishment in 1981.


HKFWC was established in 1981 and is dedicated to advancing women's rights and status, assisting women in developing their potential, working with other women's interest groups, and advising policy-making bodies to meet women's needs.


HKFWC's mission is to promote women's rights and status, to help women develop their potential, to work with other women's groups, and to provide advice to policy-making bodies to meet women's needs. According to the Social Welfare Department's figures on domestic violence cases, there were 3,541 cases in 2020, rising to 4,082 cases in 2021. Of these cases, 85% are women.


Over the years, the Women's Centre has provided various support services to women, including a women's helpline, free legal advice, counselling and casework, and group work. In 1981, the Women's Centre set up the first Women's Helpline in Hong Kong. The first Women's Helpline in Hong Kong was set up in 1981 and has received over 5,000 calls yearly. Women's abuse in the epidemic has increased. In the first quarter of 2020, domestic violence cases increased almost twofold to 34, compared to 16 in the first quarter of 2019.


Of those seeking help from HKFWC's Counselling Service in 2020-2021, 53% of the HKFWC’s counselling clients had been abused, some in multiple ways; 83% had been mentally abused, 55% had been physically abused, 16% had been sexually abused, and 16% had been suicidal.


HKFWC has provided free legal counselling since 1992; the first Free Legal Advice Clinic for women in marital distress in Hong Kong was established. "The Free Legal Advice Clinic serves over 200 women each year. In the ten years from 2012 to 2022, 625 women reported having experienced mental, sexual, or physical abuse. Women abused are more likely to experience chest congestion/discomfort, nervousness and insomnia.


HKFWC provides different levels of support and developmental work for women, including the Women's Helpline, Women's Relief and Support Fund, Counselling Services, Free Legal Advice Clinic at the individual level or emergency interventions such as mutual support groups, peer support, volunteer training, and community education work, so that women can receive appropriate support and assistance to enhance their self-development.


In addition, Ms Liu shared overseas examples of using technology to help battered women, such as the British phone app "Bright Sky". The application is designed with a weather forecast to prevent the abuser from checking the abusee’s phone. Still, the application has built-in functions for alerting, seeking help and recording the abuse. Ms Sisi Liu suggested that Hong Kong should make reference to and accelerate the use of innovative technology to eliminate violence against women.


Ms Doris Chong, Executive Director of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women (ACSVAW), said that her association has been very concerned about various types of image-based violence (IBSV) in recent years, such as taking intimate images without consent, making threats with intimate images, distributing intimate images without consent, transferring 'substituted' images and transferring intimate images without consent (Cyberflashing) through the Internet. The Association advocates for legislation, image takedowns, legal support, counselling and education as five ways of offering assistance to victims.


Recently, the Association has fought to enact legislation to combat sexual violence in images. Eventually, the Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 was enacted in Hong Kong in 2021 to close some existing loopholes in the law.


The amendments add four dimensions to the criminal offence ordinance, including 1. voyeurism; 2. unlawful filming or observation of intimate parts; 3. publication of intimate images derived from voyeurism or unlawful filming; and 4. publication or threatened publication of intimate images without consent.


In 2021-22, the Association assisted 63 victims in filing 158 requests to take down images and reported 1,053 links and content were reported, resulting in an 86% takedown rate. Of the 1,053 links and content, 39% were pornographic websites, and 28% were social networking platforms. Ms Chong pointed out that there are ten platforms (including social media platforms, online discussion forums and pornographic websites) which seldom respond to requests for deleting images, including Telegram, Instagram, LIHKG, discussion forums and four pornographic websites.


The Association believes that there should be an accountability system for online platforms and social media companies, policy guidelines, reporting channels, guidelines for platform users and a mechanism for removing content, additional technology for detecting and preventing violent content, and a "fast track" mechanism for NGOs to remove content.


Regarding the relationship between victims and perpetrators, 27% of the 51 cases were strangers, 22% were acquaintances, 21% were online acquaintances, and 20% were intimate partners.


Of the 158 cases, 60% of the images were taken with consent but released without consent, and over 50% were released without knowledge of the release. The Association has been stepping up its efforts to educate the public on the meaning of "Consent" and to educate bystanders and viewers on their responsibilities. We are actively researching ways to address Cyber sexual violence and strategies to support survivors.


Global experience

Speaker Ms Sandy Sanchez Montano from the Philippines noted that violence against women is the most common violation of human rights. Only 40% of victims of violence against women report it to the police or seek help, and gender role norms silence women. Therefore, Sandy is committed to eliminating and preventing the problem of women's abuse through visits to different countries and organisations, media and practical workshops, etc.


Professor Carol Chih-chieh Lin from Taiwan shared that most of the victims of sexual harassment in Taiwan are women. In recent years, various laws have been passed to protect different forms of sexual violence and intimate partner violence in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. At present, both government and various civil organisations in Taiwan provide services such as helplines, deletion of non-consensual private images, and prevention centres to protect victims of violence.


Ms Busayapa Srisompong (Best) from Thailand shared that SHero Thailand is committed to eliminating the culture of domestic violence and helping violence victims in Thailand by providing legal and emotional support. SHero has partnered with LINE, a communication software, to work with lawyers and case managers to directly assist victims of violence using LINE OA (LINE Official Account).


Ms Shailey Hingorani, our Singapore speaker, pointed out three major challenges to women's work today: 1. bystander inaction; 2. Victim blaming; and 3. the challenge of cyber victimisation for advocacy. Shailey proposes two strategies, bystander intervention and broader normative development.


Conference video link:



Founded in 1981, the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres (HKFWC) is a non-partisan, non-religious women's organization concerned with women's lives at the grassroots level. We are committed to promoting gender equality and fighting for women's rights. Through our women's centres, we have organised a network of volunteers to serve women at the grassroots level so that women can receive appropriate support and assistance, develop themselves, and promote women's self-confidence, autonomy, and independence.


Founded in 1977, Zonta Kowloon is the second chartered club in Hong Kong and is part of the global organization of professionals and executives who are committed to the advancement of women through social service and advocacy. Zonta International has members in 62 countries and more than 1,100 clubs worldwide. Zonta Club of Kowloon is part of Zonta International District 17, which includes Zonta clubs in Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. In its 45 years of history, Zonta Kowloon has strived to live up to the goals of Zonta International. We have partnered with many organisations in Hong Kong to organise social service programs to help women in distress and abuse victims, the disabled, the elderly and the disadvantaged. In addition to serving the community, we also work on advocacy projects to promote the improvement of women's legal, political, economic, educational & professional status in Hong Kong.

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