Australia has been asked to legalise same-sex marriage and to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity.

During the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations in Geneva on January 27, nearly 50 countries questioned the Australian Government on its human rights record and made close to 150 recommendations.

Ten recommendations related to the need for stronger equality protections and included calls for a consolidated human rights act. GLBTI rights were the subject of four specific recommendations.

These included a recommendation from New Zealand that Australia make legislation covering discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation “a high priority”, while Norway recommended Australia amend the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The Australian delegation told the session that reports of UN human rights bodies will be tabled in Parliament and recommendations would be included in a National Human Rights Plan.

Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich told the Star Observer he hoped greater attention on reports like those produced by the review would help build the pressure for reform. He welcomed Norway’s recommendation on same-sex marriage, which he said demonstrated a growing confusion at Australia’s reluctance on the issue.

“The world thinks of us as a leader when it comes to human rights, but they’re very confused as to why this is not something that is legalised the way it has been in other leading developed nations.”

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam welcomed the recommendations.

“It’s great to see Norway recommending passage of same-sex marriage, and hopefully this will further advance the cause for the Government to act,” Irlam told the Star Observer.

“But I think the more important thing that came out of this session was reminding the Government that after 15 years they’ve fallen way behind much of the world by not providing federal anti-discrimination laws covering sexuality and sex and gender identity.”

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