Dialogue of the Titans

I attended Dialogue of the Titans with Prof Megan Davis and former High Court Justice Michael Kirby. Hosted by the University of New South Wales Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous. “A dialogue between two extraordinary human rights defenders on holding a United Nations Human Rights Mandate.” An excellent event looking at the work of the United Nations as well as the practicalities (terrible travel conditions for all volunteers, which especially restrict members from developing nations).

There was also discussion of why Australia does not have a bill of rights (terrible). Plus why it’s a problem that Australia rejected the Uluru Statement, the outcome of consultation led by, and with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around Australia, which recommended a voice to parliament. Most nations with Indigenous populations have a version of this mechanism that ensures Indigenous people can comment on laws before they’re passed.

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Sociology of Abortion Politics

Women protesting, with a sign that reads "My body. My choice."

This week, on 11 May 2017, a bill two-years-in-the-making to decriminalise abortion in the state of New South Wales, Australia, was defeated 14 to 25, meaning abortion remains a crime under the Criminal Act. Greens MP and Spokesperson for the Status of Women, Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, who led the campaign to decriminalise said: “This bill was not about promoting or not promoting abortion. It was about choice.”

Another separate bill to establish 150 metre safe zones to protect abortion clinics has been introduced by Labor MP Penny Sharpe. This bill works to eliminate harassment and intimidation by anti-choice lobbyists who film and degrade women who walk into clinics.

In NSW, women can access abortions only with their doctor’s consent that there are “reasonable grounds” for the abortion, linked to physical and mental danger. Otherwise abortion is punishable by five years in jail.

This law has been in place since the 1970s, but stems back to 1900. Counter to national myths of our egalitarianism, abortion laws unearth how gender inequality is maintained by White, conservative Christian patriarchal ideology that seeks to control women’s autonomy. Sociological studies show how medical professionals have long been at the vanguard of change, by shifting understandings of abortion from moral arguments, to a medical choice.

Christian lobby groups, who hold strong political power, push back against medical and community views, using emotional imagery to influence abortion laws. This has proven effective over time, and continues to hold back progress in New South Wales (and Queensland, another conservative stronghold). Despite this recent set-back, momentum towards progressive change continues. A better sociological understanding of religiously conservative ideology and tactics may hold the key towards the next legal breakthrough.

 

Continue reading Sociology of Abortion Politics

Australia’s Unjust Treatment of Refugees

Whilst in London I came across this sign which reads, Begin your dream today, emigrate to Australia!  A warm invitation indeed: unless of course you are an asylum seeker – in which case our current government will revoke this welcome and abscond its responsibility to the United Nations Convention Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

The Australian government has passed several laws that allow the detention of asylum seekers in offshore jails. The Government also sought to imprison professionals who speak out against child abuse in refugee detention centres, including medical and health practitioners who are otherwise required by long-standing law to report such abuse of all other children. Continue reading Australia’s Unjust Treatment of Refugees

Celebrate Eddie Mabo

Celebrate Eddie Mabo

Legendary human rights activist Eddie Mabo is featured in today’s Google Doddle! Among his many achievements is being part of the 1967 Referendum that removed two racist elements from the Australian Constitution and successfully leading the legal recognition of Indigenous land rights through Native Title in 1992.

Read more on his legacy as one of Australia’s most important leaders: http://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/eddie-koiki-mabo 

Denying Citizenship Rights to Refugee Babies

The Federal Court of Australia has voted not to overturn the Government’s decision which has denied citizenship rights to baby Ferouz, who was born in a Brisbane hospital. Ferouz’s family were fleeing persecution as members of the Rohingya minority group from Myanmar (Burma). His mother was pregnant with him at the time of their arrival, but according to the new laws from July 19, they were denied the right to claim protection visas. Continue reading Denying Citizenship Rights to Refugee Babies

Racial Vilification in the Media

Discrimination also lies at the heart of many injustices closer to home. The over-incarceration of Aboriginal peoples and widespread violence against women cannot be remedied if we refuse to recognise and respond to anything other than one-off violations of individual freedoms. Anti-discrimination laws are sometimes denounced as “social engineering”… Society is already engineered. Women earn less than men, people with disability are disrespected and disbelieved in criminal proceedings, and job applicants with foreign-sounding names are less likely to get interviews than equally qualified Smiths and McKenzies. If the goal is to rid society of the distorting effects of social engineering, then addressing discrimination is not a hindrance, it’s essential…

Continue reading Racial Vilification in the Media

Tough Questions from Students

Students from Sydney’s Newtown High School of the Performing Arts give Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott a tough question time that he was evidently poorly prepared to answer with grace. The clip begins with Abbott giving weak environmental advice (“plant a tree… but don’t raise taxes”). He then faces questions about why he opposes gay marriage and his inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. Flustered and annoyed, he resorts to his infamous sexism: “Let’s have a bloke’s question, OK?”

Working off the cuff and under estimating Australia’s youth, the Prime Minister is clearly out of his depth.

In connection, ask the powerful five questions: Continue reading Tough Questions from Students

Climate Action March

A series of protests have been held around Australia today. The #MarchInMarch demonstrations are calling attention to a various policy issues that the Abbott Government is mishandling. Abbott is a climate change denier who is privileging the greed of Australia’s mining giants over environmental sustainability. He dismantled the Climate Commission within the first 24 hours of being elected. He’s a misogynist who is against pro-choice; who has made several sexist remarks about women’s public role in society; whose cabinet only has one woman, and yet he crowned himself Minister for Women’s Affairs. His election campaign focused on a platform denouncing Australia’s human rights obligations to asylum seekers (the so-called “stop the boats” campaign actually targets the most vulnerable minority of unauthorised entrants and which sociology research shows will not work). Continue reading Climate Action March

Poverty as a Matter of Justice

Below is an excellent, succinct argument for addressing poverty as a human rights issue that requires government intervention. Jeffery Reiman of the American University argues that leaving the issue of poverty to charitable organisations alone reflects the idea that disadvantaged groups are somehow lesser citizens.

He notes that this is not a critique of charities or the people who receive benefits, but instead he argues that the opposite ideal should prevail. He sees that poor people should be seen as being entitled to government support.

“If inequality is a matter of justice then it shouldn’t be rectified by charity. Charity means, ‘I give freely what I have out of my generosity.’ Justice means, ‘I give what I owe – what people have a right to… The idea that you do it by law, that these people have a right, treats them with dignity. And of course you should follow through on that.” 

LGBTQIA Inclusion in the Catholic Church

Yes, the Pope influences millions of Catholics. And yes, he should be praised for making a change, if and when he actually makes that change.

This is not that time. He did not change the doctrine, he has not changed his stance on supporting the Church’s teachings, and he is excommunicating a pro-gay Australian priest for supporting women in becoming ordained. And now, since The Advocate award, it has been reported that he is ‘shocked’ by the thought of civil unions and gay adoption – news that isn’t shocking to me at all. Continue reading LGBTQIA Inclusion in the Catholic Church