Friday 2 March 2012

The Australian Human Rights Commission is lending its support to a statement being presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next week.

The statement calls for continued international efforts to address human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Commission President Catherine Branson QC said the Commission has joined fellow National Human Rights Institutions from around the world in endorsing the statement which addresses discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It is fitting on the eve of Mardi Gras that we remember that significant challenges remain for Australia in overcoming the discrimination, vilification and harassment that many people in Australia continue to be subjected to on the basis of who they love or how they identify,” Ms Branson said.

“During the Commission’s 2010 consultation on addressing sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity discrimination we heard numerous distressing stories about how people’s lives had been damaged by the discrimination, violence or bullying they’d experienced.

“We also heard compelling evidence of the need in Australia for laws protecting people from discrimination on these grounds.”

Ms Branson said that the 2010 commitment by both political parties to include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal law, provided reasons for optimism.

“The Commission would also like to see such provisions framed in a way that achieves the broadest coverage of people of all sex and/or gender identities and which provides improved protection against discrimination,” Ms Branson said.

“The Commission has also called on the government to ensure that formal relationship recognition, including marriage, should be available to same-sex couples on an equal basis with opposite-sex couples.”

The international statement is scheduled to be submitted to the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 7 March.

The statement follows on from the first ever UN report on the issue released in December last year which identified the violence and discrimination experienced by people around the world due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The UN Report revealed that in many cases, even the perception of homosexuality or transgender identity put people at risk. It also revealed that violations occurring around the globe included killings, torture, arbitrary detention, the denial of rights to assembly, and discrimination in employment, health and education.

Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597

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