International Responsibility on LGBTQI Rights

The Hon Michael Kirby speaks about the need for Australia to contribute towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) rights on a global scale. Kirby is now working with The Kaleidoscope Trust, a not-for-profit international organisation fighting against LGBTQI human rights abuses. Kirby will contribute to law reform on LGBTQI issues in the Asia-Pacific.

Commonwealth nations have some of the most oppressive and homophobic laws in the world. Kirby argues that Australia must be a leader in our region by improving our laws and by taking an active role to challenge injustice around the world.

Kirby is the former Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996 to 2009). He publicly identified himself as gay in 1999 and has campaigned actively about the human rights of LGBTQI Australians. He was awarded a human rights medal in 1991. In May this year, he was appointed to lead an United Nations inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea.

Same Sex Marriages in the Australian Capital Territory

Same sex marriages have been talking place in the Australian Capital Territory,  the first Australian state or territory to legalise non-heterosexual marriage. This new law had been contentious and it is being challenged by the federal Government led by the ultra  conservative Liberal Party. This coming Thursday The High Court of Australia will decide whether this new state law is constitutional so the law is currently precarious.

Gay Rights are not Equatable to Racial Segregation

This entertaining video was really popular last year. Although seemingly clever, it draws on a problematic comparison between same-sex marriage discrimination in the present day and racial segregation laws that were firmly in place in the USA until the civil rights movement in the 1960s (as well as in South Africa, Australia and around the world). This comparison between gay marriage and racial segregation has become increasingly common amongst well-meaning activists, including in litigation cases before the USA courts.

The link between racial segregation and gay marriage has also been evoked elsewhere, such as in the UK, with activists and academics arguing that not allowing gay marriage is similar to racist policies of the 1960s. This race-sexual discrimination argument is usually made by White activists who aim to illuminate the similar struggles of inequality faced by all minority groups.

Racial segregation and gay marriage might be similarly categorised within the rubric of human rights issues that everyone should be invested in protecting. The problem with drawing a direct link between both issues is that this ignores the distinct historical relations that different minority groups have faced over time, and it also obliterates the legal intricacies of racial, sexual and gender discriminations. Equating racial segregation to gay marriage also ignores the complex interconnections of discrimination as they are lived by different subgroups.

Continue reading Gay Rights are not Equatable to Racial Segregation

Japan’s Disposable Workforce: Alienation, Suicide and Social Responsibility

By Zuleyka Zevallos

Shiho Fukada’s Pulitzer Centre project on Japan’s “disposable workers” focuses on people who are precariously employed in casual and “dead end” jobs. They are underpaid, working long hours but without any of the benefits or sense of stability of full time employment. This affects people who are homeless as well as white collar workers who are driven to suicide due to mental and physical exhaustion. I see that Fukada’s photo essay offers an insightful visual critique of economic progress and the rapid increase of an “underclass” in one of the world’s most advanced societies. I argue that Fukada’s work might be understood through the sociological concept of anomie, a term that describes the social alienation that follows a society’s shift in morals and values. In this case, I explore how a cultural change in attitude means that workers are less valued in Japan, leading to socio-economic and mental health problems. I draw a comparison between the Japanese and the Australian workforce. I conclude by showing how sociologists seek to help governments, employers, developers and community organisations work together to better support a sustainable and ethical economic future.

Shiho Fukada via Pulitzer Centre
Shiho Fukada via Pulitzer Centre

Continue reading Japan’s Disposable Workforce: Alienation, Suicide and Social Responsibility

Refugees Not Allowed “The Dignity” To Work in Australia

Last month, 400 asylum seekers were released from detention centres in Darwin, Australia, on “bridging visas.” An estimated 200 of them came to Melbourne. Under the Government’s “no advantage” mandate, these asylum seekers must now find their own accommodation. Many of them have moved into aged care homes, former convents and student flats. Those lucky enough to already have family in Australia can stay with family members. The precariousness of these asylum seekers’ lives is compounded not just by their temporary and restrictive visas and their temporary lodgings, but also by the fact that they are not allowed to work. Instead, they must live off basic welfare payments. This might go on for years, while their applications for permanent residency are under review. Continue reading Refugees Not Allowed “The Dignity” To Work in Australia

Dehumanising LGBTQIA Marriage Rights

A protester yells “We’re not fucking animals,” reacting to the news that civil unions between gay and lesbian Australians in the state of Queensland will now be known as “registered relationships,” and same sex couples have lost the right to surrogacy laws. Moments before this protester’s outburst in the Parliament session, Queensland Minister Michael Crandon said:

“The opportunity [has] now to come to a court and to register, if you like, their interest in one another…” [my emphasis].

The language is dehumanising – gay and lesbian Australians can “register their interest in one another” but the state will not recognise this “interest” as a full partnership worthy of the same legal rights and status as heterosexual couples.

The recently elected Liberal National Party Government is changing the law introduced last year by the former Labor government, which had finally allowed gay and lesbian relationships to be legally recognised as a civil union. This was seen as a positive step towards the legal recognition of marriages between homosexual and queer Australians. In a further legal blow to gay and lesbian citizens, their “registered partnerships” will not be allowed legal access to altruistic surrogacy (along with short-term de facto couples and single people). These are very dangerous times when Christian lobbying forces the Queensland government to withdraw the legal rights of Australians. To top it all off, it is still legal in Queensland to kill a gay or lesbian person and use the “gay panic” defence. That is, a murderer can argue that they reacted in violence because they were overwhelmed that a homosexual person flirted with them. Disgusting!

If you are in Queensland, go here to sign the e-petition to urge the Queensland government to end discrimination in surrogacy laws. Go here to sign the e-petition to urge the Queensland government to protect civil marriages and equal rights of gay and lesbian Australians.

Sociology of the So-Called ‘Gay Agenda’

These are two of my favourite protest signs from the Funny or Die post celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender human rights justice in the USA. The first one elevates what heterosexual people take to be routine (“spend time with my family”) and mundane (“buy milk”) as well what is taken for granted: “be treated equally”.

The second one points out how the power behind the fundamentalist Christian reading of the bible can be simultaneously: ridiculous, out-dated and taken out of context. Fundamentalists often defend the exclusive sanctity of heterosexual marriage by quoting the bible. This sign reads:

We can quote the bible too: A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21.)

The other photos are also amusing; I just love the sociological impact of these two.

Images source: Funny or Die (originally from Happy Place).

LGBTQIA People Seek Refuge in Kenya

Until a new anti-homosexuality bill caused a wave of homophobia in Uganda, John and Paul could hold hands in the streets of the capital Kampala and kiss in night club.

Then the nightmare started — people began insulting and then assaulting them, and then they had to run away to Kenya. The couple have been in Nairobi since May of last year.

Like other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, they came to this urban jungle seeking anonymity, explained the official running a programme that looks after these refugees.

His organisation, which last year alone looked after 67 LGBT cases in Kenya, did not want to be named for fear of endangering its refugees.

Some have fled a strict application of Islamic law in Somalia, others are running from general sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and yet others have fled a climate of growing hostility elsewhere in east Africa.

Some hope to be able to find refuge in Western countries sympathetic to their plight, such as the United States.

Persecuted at home, African homosexuals seek refuge in Kenya

Twitter Censorship a Back-Flip on Human Rights

By Zuleyka Zevallos

Twitter censorship
Twitter censorship

One year ago, Twitter celebrated that it would uphold free speech as a ‘human right‘ for countries that had censorship laws. On the 26th of January, Twitter announced a back-flip on its previous public pronouncement that it was the bastion of free speech:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.

Twitter’s blog includes a link to Chilling Effects, a site that alerts users about what content has been flagged for censorship. The complaints currently listed are about media content. What will happen when the complaints are about freedom of expression for various political activist groups?

Continue reading Twitter Censorship a Back-Flip on Human Rights

Why internet access is a basic human right

By Scott Edwards, Amnesty International USA blog:

A curious op ed appeared in The New York Times recently, titled “Internet Access is Not a Human Right.” In this piece—which I read as I do most news and media, via my computer—Vinton Cerf, a “father” of the Internet, makes an argument that despite the critical role of Information Communication Technologies (the internet) in the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, access to the Internet is not a human right.

I should note that his right to express himself so is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR):

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to… seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The curious bit of his piece though, isn’t the claim that Internet Access is not a human right, but rather the exceptionally narrow portrayal of human rights from a legal and philosophical perspective.

Beautifully argued: Why internet access is a basic human right