In 2011 Australia is due for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council. The review occurs every five years to assess how Australia is performing under its international human rights obligations.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) will partner with the Sexual Rights Initiative, an international group that works with the UN Human Rights Council to promote the rights of sexual and gender minorities, to produce a report on how Australia fares.

Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which sets out basic human rights principles.

Article 26 requires signatories to the Convention to treat all citizens equally under the law, however, federal and state and territory governments discriminate against lesbians, gay men and their families in parenting, marriage and anti-discrimination laws.

No federal anti-discrimination legislation exists protecting individuals from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. A lack of federal protection can affect an individual’s access to health care, the provision of goods and services, accommodation and aged-care services. There is also inconsistent terminology describing sexuality in state and territory-based anti-discrimination legislation and includes broad-ranging exemptions available to certain bodies including religious organisations.

All states and territories, except WA, the ACT and Tasmania, preclude same-sex couples from adopting children. This undermines the basic principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which places the best interests of the child as a paramount concern when making laws that affect the welfare of children.

Denying children the legal recognition of both parents compromises the welfare of children by limiting their access to the non-legal parents’ inheritance, workers compensation and superannuation benefits.

Same-sex couples continue to be excluded from marriage. Marriage is a civil institution, governed by secular laws, to which all people should have access.

As part of the UPR process, the GLRL urges greater international scrutiny of Australia’s implementation of human rights. Despite the rhetoric of a ‘human rights framework’, this is not an alternative to durable and enforceable legislative change that will protect sexual minorities from discrimination.

By SENTHORUN RAJ

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