2. What are the functions and duties of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)?
The Equal Opportunities Commission is a statutory body set up in 1996 to implement the Sex Discrimination Ordinance ("SDO"), the Disability Discrimination Ordinance ("DDO"), the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance ("FSDO") and the Race Discrimination Ordinance ("RDO") in Hong Kong. It is an independent body and is publicly funded by the Government. Generally speaking, it works towards the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, family status (in relation to those who need to take care of their family members) and race.
The Commission undertakes the following three major functions:
a) Investigation and Conciliation
- it investigates complaints lodged under the SDO, the DDO, the FSDO and the RDO;
- it encourages reconciliation between parties in dispute;
- it may provide assistance in respect of legal proceedings before the District Court (where reconciliation fails) if the complainant chooses to take his/her case to court; and
- it initiates formal investigations that are in the public interest.
b) Legislation, Codes of Practice and Guidelines
- the commission issues Codes of Practice (*note) and guidelines on the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equal opportunities;
- it keeps the SDO, the DDO, the FSDO and the RDO under review, and proposes amendments to the Government where necessary.
(*Note: The Codes of Practice are not equivalent to the ordinances, but any contravention of the Codes may be used as evidence in legal proceedings against the relevant discriminators. Examples of the Codes of Practice issued by the Commission include: Code of Practice on Employment , the Code of Practice on Education and the Race Discrimination Ordinance Code of Practice on Employment.)
c) Education and Promotion
- the commission creates better understanding of discrimination and inequality through research and public education;
- it coordinates and communicates with the Government and non-Government organizations on issues of equal opportunities.