The status of SOGII rights in Australia has improved significantly over the past two decades. Despite this, LGBTI people still face unacceptable and significant discrimination and barriers to their fair and equal treatment, according to this report.
‘SOGII rights’ are ultimately about ensuring the equal application of human rights to everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
This is provided for in international treaties to which Australia is a party. Specifically, the obligation to ensure equality before the law has been interpreted as applying equally to people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
The status of SOGII rights in Australia has improved significantly over the past two decades. Despite this, LGBTI people still face unacceptable and significant discrimination and barriers to their fair and equal treatment.
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) such as the Commission can act as a link between civil society and the government to advance human rights. They can also assist businesses and the private sector to implement human rights-based approaches to improve practice and outcomes. Importantly NHRIs are a point of access for citizens to understand their rights and corresponding responsibilities. In Australia, state and territory-based equal opportunity, anti-discrimination and human rights institutions also contribute to this dialogue.
As Australia’s NHRI, the Australian Human Rights Commission has been working with LGBTI civil society on SOGII rights for over a decade. The National SOGII Consultation and this report constitute the fifth major national project on SOGII rights conducted by the Commission in this time.
The National Consultation was designed to offer communities and stakeholders an opportunity to voice their opinions about the status of SOGII rights in Australia. The outcomes of the National Consultation are intended to assist in setting the Commission’s priorities on SOGII issues for at least the next four years.
The National Consultation confirmed that as a group, people of diverse SOGII status still experience an unacceptable level of discrimination through law, policy, practice and social attitudes in Australia. The National Consultation also identified inspiring examples of the way that everyday Australians combat discrimination and promote respect and inclusion among communities, businesses, sporting organisations and institutions.
Although simple in principle, achieving equal respect in law and practice can be complicated in application. Just as the rest of the population are not a homogenous group, LGBTI people are a diverse group of different cultures, races, classes, abilities, geographical locations and ages.
Ensuring the full respect for human rights presents distinct challenges for different groups of SOGII people. A challenge of working within umbrella terms such as SOGII or LGBTI is seeking a balance between maintaining a separate focus on individual needs, while also recognising that there are shared and common experiences amongst individuals.
Participants in the National Consultation identified a range of rights and responsibilities requiring protection and promotion. They did not all agree on how such issues should be prioritised. Further, they did not agree on how this should be achieved.
Full realisation of the enjoyment of human rights, regardless of SOGII status, necessitates an expansion beyond the traditional dialogue between governments and advocates. It will require engagement from all sectors in Australia. The success of these efforts will require a willingness from each sector to acknowledge the challenges that exist within their field and work on constructive reform.