A senior government official said Sunday there was still no generally accepted definition of “indecent assault” or “sexual harassment” in local society because of which a consensus needed to be reached first through public consultation next year before drafting legislation on the matter could begin.
Law Reform and International Law Bureau (DSRIJI) Vice Director Chan Hin Chi made the remarks during TDM’s weekly open-air forum in Areia Preta Park.
Several dozen people attended the forum which focused on possible legislation on “indecent assault” and “sexual harassment” and whether both should defined as a “public crime” or a “semi-public crime”.
Addressing the forum, Chan said that there was a great deal of public concern about “indecent assault” and “sexual harassment” even though there still was no generally accepted definition on the issue among local residents.
Chan pointed out that Hong Kong’s legal system applies the term “indecent assault” to various sex crimes such as rape. Chan said that “indecent assault” was punishable by up to 10 years in jail in Hong Kong.
“The term of ‘indecent assault’ [adapted in Hong Kong] is so broad …and currently the Hong Kong government is studying how to amend it and make it more specific… both the mainland and Taiwan don’t use the term ‘indecent assault’,” Chan said, adding, “Whether [the legal definition] should refer to sex, groping or even leering …I think there will be different opinions about it. Thus there should be a consensus [about the definition of “indecent assault” and “sexual harassment”] as the basis for possible legislation …once a consensus is obtained it [legislation on the matter] would be fully recognised [by the public].”
Chan also said the government would ensure that there will be enough time for next year’s public consultation process.
Fellow guest speaker-cum-lawyer Ho Kam Meng said that he supported specific legislation on “indecent assault” and “sexual harassment”.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to use a charge of insult when a victim has suffered an indecent assault,” Ho said, adding that the public ought to be consulted on whether “indecent assault” and “sexual harassment” should be defined as a “public crime” or a “semi public crime”.
Currently, Macau’s Penal Code does not include the crimes of “indecent assault” and “sexual harassment.” Consequently, victims of sex-related crimes are routinely advised by the police and lawyers to press for charges related to insult instead.
A “semi-public crime” means that the law enforcement authorities can only take action if the victim files a criminal complaint. In the case of a “public crime”, the authorities can take the initiative without having to ask for the victim’s consent to prosecute the alleged perpetrator.(Macaunews/macaupost)