Anti-discrimination overhaul doesn’t go far enough: advocates
While the Federal Government’s overhaul of national anti-discrimination laws has elicited praise for including new protections for LGBT people, there are concerns the changes do not go far enough to address discrimination for intersex people.
Last week, the Attorney-General Nicola Roxon released draft legislation which consolidates Australia’s five anti-discrimination statutes into one act.
The overhaul will include new protected grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The Government believes this legislation effectively prohibits the discrimination and harassment faced by sex and/or gender diverse people, including people who are intersex,” a spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department told SX.
“The exposure draft legislation provides protection for people who are intersex within the definition of ‘gender identity’. It recognises that most intersex people identify as either male or female.
But Gina Wilson, President of Organisation Intersex International (OII), said protections for intersex people should not fall under gender identity.
“Intersex is almost never a gender identity,” Wilson told SX. “Most intersex people identify as men and women.”
Wilson said there should be protections for intersex people on the basis of the anatomical features, “as they do with disability or age”.
Recently, amendments were passed to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which gave greater protections specifically for intersex people.
“Now if the Tasmanian government is brave enough, the Federal Government should be able to do it as well,” Wilson said.
The AG department’s spokesperson said the approach is “consistent with the highest protection provided by existing State and Territory anti-discrimination laws”.
There is also unease from LGBT health groups over religious exemptions.
Under the changes, religious exemptions will remain except for Commonwealth-funded aged care providers, who will no longer be permitted to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, prompting concern for other sections of the LGBT community.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill cited young LGBT people, as well as professionals in educational settings, among those who may be discriminated against because of a lack of protections under the federal act.
Currently, faith-based schools are allowed to discriminate against LGBT student and staff on the basis of their sexuality, adding to uncertainty around employment for LGBT teachers and the risk of expulsion for LGBT students.
“In our submission to the Attorney General’s Department earlier this year, we argued that any organisation which wishes to discriminate must clearly state this intention when advertising their services or when recruiting staff. This recommendation has not been incorporated into the bill,” Parkhill said.
“If the Government is going to sanction discrimination on the part of specific organisations, then the Government should require those organisations to clearly state their intention to exercise this privilege so as not to cause any confusion to potential employees, students or parents.”
The changes also include protections against relationship discrimination extended to same-sex couples.
Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Rodney Croome said the government should extend its commitment to ending discrimination to the Marriage Act.
Croome said the first step in doing this would be for the government to recognise overseas same-sex marriages.
“The draft anti-discrimination law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of ‘relationship status’ and we believe that principle should extend to legally recognising overseas same-sex marriages in Australia,” Croome said.
The AG spokesperson said the Government will be referring the draft bill to a Senate committee to hear the public’s views before its introduction into Parliament.
[Image] Organisation Intersex International President Gina Wilson