The Equal Opportunities Commission (the “Commission”), which is an entity formed pursuant to Hong Kong’s Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Chapter 480 (the “Ordinance”), brought a challenge against the Director of Education (the “Director”), alleging that the system for transferring students from primary to secondary school (the “SSPA System”) discriminated against students on the basis of sex in violation of the Ordinance. The discrimination affected both sexes, but it primarily affected females. There were three structural elements of the SSPA system that allegedly discriminated against students: (1) A scaling mechanism, which scaled the scores of all primary students in their school assessments to ensure that they could be fairly compared with scores given by other primary schools; (2) a banding mechanism, which banded all students into broad orders of academic merit; and (3) a gender quota, which ensured that a fixed ratio of boys and girls were admitted to individual co- educational secondary schools. Though the structural elements were facially neutral, they were being employed on a gender basis. The Director argued that there were legitimate differences between boys and girls at younger ages, which justified the SSPA’s contested elements and, therefore, the SSPA simply removed initial gender bias inherent in the system. The High Court of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region held that all three allegedly discriminatory elements of the SSPA system were in fact discriminatory and contrary to the Ordinance. The Court ordered—as requested by the Commission—that the Director eliminate sex discrimination against girls within a reasonable time and that a user-friendly mechanism be put in place to deal with and remedy complaints of sex discrimination by individual parents on behalf of their children.
Women and Justice: Keywords
The court declared the current gate pass regime, which required litigants to provide a photo identification when entering the court premises, unconstitutional, because it violates the open court principle by restricting court access to only parties to cases listed on particular day or parties who seek to inspect the record in their cases. The Court noted that the gate pass application would disproportionately affect the economically weak, inter alia, women and children, to access courts.