The Law Reform Commission on Thursday made a series of recommendations to change legislation relating to sex offences in Hong Kong, calling for an equal age of consent in all circumstances, a wider scope of what constitutes rape, and a new crime of grooming children for sex.
Its final recommendations, following a review of sexual offences which began more than a decade ago, also include new legislation prohibiting care workers from having sex with patients with mental impairments, and outlawing sexual activity with a dead person.
The commission said it had received several hundred responses to three consultation papers it had issued on the subject, including from concern groups focusing on children, women and sexual minorities, as well as religious and legal bodies.
It said the list of recommendations it has come up with seeks to ensure that Hong Kong's laws on sexual offences are clear, gender neutral, avoid any distinctions based on sexual orientation, and also respect people's sexual autonomy.
The commission said the term "rape" should be changed to "sexual penetration without consent", and this offence should in future cover penetration of the vagina or anus, as well as penile penetration of the mouth.
It recommends an age of consent of 16 in all cases. Currently, the law prohibits a man from having anal sex with a woman under 21.
There is a call for the creation of a new offence of sexual grooming to protect children against paedophiles, making it unlawful for someone to communicate with a child under the age of 16 with the intention of meeting them for sex.
Senior Counsel Peter Duncan, the chairman of the commission's Review of Sexual Offences Sub-committee, said such legislation could enable the police to step in before any abuse has taken place.
"We don't want the authorities to be in a position to know that a person is preparing the way for abuse, without the authorities being able to do something about it," Duncan said.
"If there is a complaint, for example from a parent or a teacher, that a child is being groomed by another person and it's apparent that the intention of that person is to have sexual activity with the child, then we think that should be an offence in itself."
The commission also said while it noted the crowded living environment in Hong Kong, the government should consider making it an offence for people to engage in sexual activity in the presence of a child under 16, if the aim is to humiliate, distress or alarm them, or to obtain sexual gratification due to them being there.
It recommends that causing a child under 16 to look at a sexual image for the same reasons should also be criminalised.
Another of the recommendations is to introduce new legislation to create an offence of sexual activity with a person who has a mental impairment by anyone involved in his or her care, or involving an abuse of a position of trust or authority.
In addition, the commission said the offence of incest should be broadened to cover more forms of sexual activity and should be extended to cover uncles and aunts and their nephews and nieces if they are blood relatives, as well as adoptive parents.
Following a series of arrests for upskirt photography and a controversy regarding which law should be applied in such cases, the commission had in April called for a new offence of voyeurism.