Date: 
Thursday 23 February 2017
Image: 

In the lead-up to the 38th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow hosted a RightsTalk to discuss the role of law in protecting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians.

Guest speakers Imam Nur Warsame, Anna Brown from the Human Rights Law Centre, and Morgan Carpenter from the Organisation Intersex International Australia spoke about the continuing legal, social, religious and cultural discrimination that affects the lives of LGBTI people and their families.

Imam Nur said the challenges that young LGBTI Muslims face and the risks of self-harm for this cohort highlight a need for safe spaces for LGBTI youth.

The Imam, who has spoken publicly about his own experiences as a gay man, said support groups such as Marhaba, a group he established in Melbourne, provide a place where LGBTIQ Muslims can openly discuss and reconcile religion and sexuality.

Morgan Carpenter reflected on the mixed messages that the legal system delivers to the community about the human rights of people with intersex variations, particularly in relation to consent and medical interventions. He said inaccurate terminology, inconsistent court judgements and lack of knowledge and understanding add to intersex stigma.

“Our laws need to reflect how we understand ourselves as intersex,” Mr Carpenter said.

“Where are we in terms of the journey towards equality for LGBTI people in Australia?” asked the Human Rights Law Centre’s Anna Brown.

“We have had a huge wave of legal and social reform in this space over the past five years, but despite this progress, we still have discrimination entrenched in law.

“Our relationships are not recognised in this country; our families aren’t always recognised; and in some cases, our very identities and as Morgan Carpenter has described, our bodies, are not always legally recognised. So we have some catching up to do.”

Ms Brown said despite amendments in 2013 to the Sex Discriminaton Act, which made it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status under federal law, there are state and territory laws in place that discriminate against LGBTI people.

“As a first step, we need to make sure every last stain of discrimination is removed from the statute books,” Ms Brown said.

Pictured from left: Anna Brown, Imam Nur, Morgan Carpenter, Edward Santow.

Watch the video