Legal expert Puja Kapai on Monday urged the government to give the equality watchdog more leeway to take sexual harassment cases straight to court, without necessarily going through a mandatory conciliation process first.
Speaking during a forum on sexual harassment in the workplace, the University of Hong Kong professor noted that at present, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) can only offer legal assistance to alleged victims and represent them in court after conciliation efforts fail.
While this is beneficial in some cases where the complainants don’t necessarily want to take their employers to court, Kapai warned that this approach can in certain cases be detrimental to the victim, saying the conciliation process could become another form of trauma.
"Many of the victims in, particularly serious forms of sexual harassment, would not want to confront their perpetrators in context where they have no legal representation and they feel they already lack power," she said.
“So rather than push them to go through the reconciliation process which inevitably is likely to fail or be settled prematurely or maybe settled at a very unfavourable amount, it’s probably better to recognize that this is not a suitable case and then to move on to other possibilities like having the EOC support them in bringing a claim in court”, Kapai added.