Statement on the Religious Discrimination Bills package

Intersex Human Rights Australia promotes the health and human right of people with innate variations of sex characteristics. Historically, people with intersex variations have not been subjected to religiously motivated discrimination in the same way as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Intersex variations are innate biological traits. Religious organisations have not argued for the ability to discriminate against people with innate variations in sex characteristics.

We stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people. We stand in solidarity with people with disabilities, with whom we share an experience of medical and social models. We stand in solidarity with people of minority faiths. We note that many people have multiple characteristics and identities, including people with intersex variations who are LGBTQ and people with intersex variations who are religious. No-one should experience stigma and discrimination because of who they are or who they love.

We support the removal of exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act to end discrimination against students vulnerable to discrimination in religious schools. We oppose key sections of the current Religious Discrimination Bill.

Current discussions about protections for LGBTQI school children offer an important reminder that children with intersex variations are currently protected from discrimination in schools, including in religious schools. People with intersex variations are protected from discrimination by legislation on grounds of sex characteristics or intersex status.

The attribute of intersex status was added to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 via an amendment in 2013. The same amendment added the attributes of sexual orientation and gender identity to the Act. Unlike sexual orientation and gender identity, section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act does not permit religious schools to discriminate on the basis of intersex status, sex, breast-feeding or family responsibilities. Unlike sexual orientation, the Fair Work Act offers no protection on grounds of intersex status – and the Commonwealth government rejected reform to provide these protections in 2021.

We call on the Attorney General to stop using our community as an excuse to further delaying vital reforms to protect children.

We urge politicians, media and members of the public to educate themselves about people with intersex variations. Too often we are misunderstood and unhelpfully drawn into debates about issues that do not affect us. We urge the Government to consult with us before speaking out about issues that impact on us.

We urge reform of anti-discrimination law through a Human Rights Act, ensuring that reforms are carefully, holistically considered. We urge the Government and parliament to comprehensively protect our communities from the harm of discrimination.

We urge action on areas of concern that affect us directly, particularly urgent implementation of reforms to protect the human rights of people with innate variations of sex characteristics in medical settings – including legislative reform, oversight and standards, as recommended by the Australian Human Rights Commission in October 2021.

Statement attributable to Morgan Carpenter, executive director.

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