Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

News

  • Written by Fiona McGaughey, Lecturer, Law School, University of Western Australia
The Conversation

On International Women’s Day this year, Australia hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Not only did we fail to support a United Nations (UN) motion that called for greater accountability for human rights violations against women and girls, but comments made by our prime minister provoked international outrage.

The UN resolution proposed “policies and legislation that respect women and girls’ right to bodily autonomy”. Perhaps Australia refused to support this motion because some of its domestic laws effectively maintain sex discrimination against women.

Abortion is still restricted and even criminalised in some circumstances, in some Australian states, which impinges on women’s capacity to access safe reproductive healthcare.

Read more: Crowd-mapping gender equality – a powerful tool for shaping a better city launches in Melbourne

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, at an International Women’s Day event, generated controversy by saying:

We’re not about setting Australians against each other, trying to push some down and lift others up. We want to see women rise but we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.

In contrast, UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres, a “proud feminist” stated:

When we exclude women, everyone pays the price. When we include women, the whole world wins.

Following international media coverage, Morrison sought to clarify his earlier remarks:

What I was saying yesterday is I don’t want to see this agenda pursued by setting women against men. No. Australian against Australian. No. I want to bring all Australians together to focus on this. That’s what I’m fair dinkum about.

How Australia measures up

Fair dinkum though, these developments are disappointing. Australia was one of 47 states elected to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) for a 2018-2020 term. It currently has real potential to contribute to global progress on women’s rights.

Indeed, one of the five “pillars” of Australia’s bid for a HRC seat was gender equality. Foreign Minister Marise Payne recently reiterated Australia’s commitment to these pillars in her speech to the HRC.

We can measure whether Australia has demonstrated its commitment to its voluntary pledges as a member of the HRC in a number of ways. We can assess whether Australia’s public statements at the council address its objectives.

In 2018, gender equality was the most consistent theme of Australia’s statements before the council. Australia promoted gender equality through statements on violence against women, female genital mutilation, discrimination against women and women’s rights.

On this measure, then, Australia performed well.

Read more: Backlash and gender fatigue. Why progress on gender equality has slowed

In recent years, Australia has at times reacted with hostility to constructive critique from the UN human rights bodies.

But in June 2018, in response to a report from the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, then Foreign Minister Julie Bishop struck a more diplomatic tone. Bishop thanked the special rapporteur for her report and commented:

Independent scrutiny, transparency and accountability are critical to upholding the human rights of all people and Australia welcomes such scrutiny. Australia is carefully considering the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations and appreciates the opportunity to make a preliminary response today.

In this area, then, Australia also appears to be doing better.

A poor record in Indigenous communities

But in the same statement, Australia acknowledged the following:

The Special Rapporteur noted particular concerns regarding the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. We acknowledge and regret that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience violence at higher levels than non-Indigenous Australian women. We must do better.

Indeed, the special rapporteur called on the Australian government to make policy in this area with – rather than for – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. She noted that current policy settings are insufficient to address the “institutional, systemic, multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination” experienced by Indigenous women and girls.

On top of that, Australia is falling down on its commitments in terms of how it responds to the human rights performance of other countries. The Universal Periodic Review process, administered by the HRC, scrutinises each UN state’s behaviour on cycles of four and a half years. According to a public database of recommendations, only 4% of Australia’s recommendations to other states related to gender equality.

Far fewer of Australia’s recommendations - 0.6% - related to its commitment “pillar” of Indigenous rights.

Read more: Parents can promote gender equality and help prevent violence against women. Here's how

Plenty of room for improvement

Gender equality is one of many areas in which Australia’s public discourse is poorly served by a lack of comprehensive human rights protection in our domestic law.

From the prime minister’s public comments to Australia’s diplomatic behaviour, there is considerable room for improvement if we are to be “fair dinkum” about gender equality.

Having secured a place on the HRC as a defender of gender equality, Australia ought to be beyond immature statements that depict women’s equality as necessarily diminishing men’s capacity or rights in society.

Authors: Fiona McGaughey, Lecturer, Law School, University of Western Australia

Read more http://theconversation.com/australias-performance-on-gender-equality-are-we-fair-dinkum-113657

Why the coronavirus shouldn't stand in the way of the next wage increase

arrow_forward

Seeing is believing: how media mythbusting can actually make false beliefs stronger

arrow_forward

Scott Morrison's address to the National Press Club

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

$1.8 billion boost for local government

The Federal Liberal and Nationals Government will deliver a $1.8 billion boost for road and community projects through local governments across Australia.   The package of support will help lo...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison press conference

PRIME MINISTER: This is a tough day for Australia, a very tough day. Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost, every one of them devastating for those Australians, for their families, for their commun...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

BOOST FOR BUSHFIRE RECOVERY

Local economic recovery plans will help towns and regions hit by bushfires get back on their feet as part of a new $650 million package of support from the Morrison Government.   As part of th...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

How have live chatbots turned beneficial for online businesses?

Every business these days have come up with their online models. While some people still rely on the customer service representatives to handle the queries for their company around the clock through...

Paresh Patil - avatar Paresh Patil

Which Internet Marketing techniques can boost my business?

Internet marketing can be easily defined as various internet techniques that can be used to promote a product or service to all those people who use the internet to visit various websites and social p...

Kamballa Johnson - avatar Kamballa Johnson

3 Top Tips to Hiring Long Distance Movers

Moving doesn’t need to be stressful at all. Find the right moving company to help with your relocation and the whole experience should be what you want out of the move in the first place – a new sta...

Ash Thomson - avatar Ash Thomson



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion