Equal treatment for gay and lesbian people and better treatment of gender diverse people were early pleas to the National Human Rights Consultation’s move online.

An online forum was established to encourage free interaction and debate on the issues raised during the consultation hearings across the country. Sydney’s three hearings on 17 March were fully booked and those who missed out won’t have another opportunity except online or via a written submission.

Just four weeks remain in what Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes called a once-in-a-generation opportunity to highlight gay and lesbian issues that should be part of a new human rights law.

One participant, Bayne MacGregor, wrote that inequality was at the heart of any human rights violation and Australia had plenty of inequality.

When couples are treated differently under the law based on their sexual orientation. Where [t]ranssexuals must be sterilised and lose any reproductive rights in order to be treated as equal citizens without constant discrimination, and who often have great trouble getting ordinary medical treatment.

An advisory charter of rights would help protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority, he wrote, and called for a parliamentary committee to help scrutinise inequalities that breach the charter.

But there was also opposition to a charter of rights, claims that it was just another level of bureaucracy.
More than 13,000 written submissions have already been made to the consultation, many opposing GLBT rights as breaching religious freedoms.

Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes -” who is not part of the consultation committee -” has been touring the country to promote participation.

Gay and lesbian and transgender people are still telling me of unacceptable treatment in Australia. Not to the level of other countries, pleasingly, but certainly to the level of being harassed and bullied in school or the workplace, he told Sydney Star Observer.

One group talked to me about transgender people being run out of Northbridge in Western Australia by homophobic gangs.

Education of young people was important in combating homophobia, but other measures were also needed.

Australia needs [sexuality] discrimination law at a federal level so people can lodge complaints, and we probably need to look at how we recognise same-sex relationships.

info: The National Human Rights Consultation’s online forum will run until 26 June at openforum.com.au/NHROC.

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