The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 aims to remove the capacity of bodies established for religious purposes that provide education to be able to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
Senator Penny Wong is attempting to bring legislation through the Federal Government to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. These amendments aim to remove the capacity of bodies established for religious purposes that provide education to be able to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
Religion still plays a vital part in the lives of Australians. The most recent census in 2016 showed that 60% of Australians identify with a religion. We believe Australians should be able to stay true to their convictions, and religious convictions must be upheld in a Democratic society.
The Australian Constitution (1901), Section 116, prohibits the Commonwealth from enacting any law that “prohibits the free exercise of religion”.
And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 18 states;
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship or observance.
This Bill has been referred to Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and they are currently taking submissions, and I encourage you to make your voice heard as this Bill has the potential to attack our Religious Freedoms.
There are two main concerns I have with this Bill;
- Religious Freedom.
No right is greater than another. Unfortunately the right to Religious Freedom seems to be under constant attack in an increasingly secular society. The Australian Government conducted a review into Religious Freedoms and in the report from this review, Recommendation 7 stated:
The Commonwealth should amend the Sex Discrimination Act to provide that religious schools may discriminate in relation to students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status provided that:
(a) the discrimination is founded in the precepts of the religion
(b) the school has a publicly available policy outlining its position in relation to the matter
(c) the school provides a copy of the policy in writing to prospective students and their parents at the time of enrolment and to existing students and their parents at any time the policy is updated, and
(d) the school has regard to the best interests of the child as the primary consideration in its conduct.
The SDA Bill 2018 does not abide by the recommendations in this report.
- Safety of all students
With this continued move away from a purely biological definition of gender, the SDA Bill 2018 has the potential to impact the rights and safety of other students.
The SDA Bill 2018 does not have any specific requirements to be met in regards to gender identity. There is no requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, it is accepted that a child self-identifying as a different gender to their biological sex accompanied with a statement from a medical practitioner or psychologist is sufficient. The previous separation of bathrooms, change rooms, accommodation at camps etc. was set up to provide privacy and safety for users.
I am not implying that anyone identifying as a gender different to their biological sex is a deviant and is out to harm other students, but with loose definitions it concerns me that there is potential for safety to be jeopardised. This also extends to single sex schools, which came about in an effort to improve learning outcomes due to the differences in learning styles of males and females. This Bill aims to removes protection these schools had to have single sex cohorts.
I encourage those of you who feel strongly about the issues the SDA Bill 2018 poses to make your own submissions so that we can continue to protect our religious freedoms within educational facilities.