Tag Archives: Anti discrimination law

Has our first female PM legitimised misogyny?

18 Jan

“We all recognise that if there’s one overarching issue for women it’s the way that religion can be manipulated to subjugate women.” Mary Robinson, first female President of Ireland, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Late in 2012 Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, made a stirring and globally applauded speech in the House of Representatives, on misogyny and sexism in the Parliament.

Ms Gillard declared “I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by the Leader of the Opposition.”

Ms Gillard asked: “What does misogyny look like to modern Australia?”

Ms Gillard deplored LOTO Tony Abbott’s double standards when it comes to misogyny and sexism.

Ms Gillard demanded Tony Abbott apologise to the women of Australia for his misogyny and sexism.

Ms Gillard stated “I am always offended by sexism and statements that are anti women.”

Ms Gillard declared “Double standards should not rule this parliament” and “sexism is always unacceptable” and that “we are entitled to a better standard than this.”

Prime Minister Gillard was absolutely right on all counts, and the stand she took was long overdue.

The Gillard government has undertaken the consolidation of anti discrimination legislation. In the course of this it has decided to preserve existing exemptions that permit religious organisations to discriminate against , as David Marr puts it:  any or all gays and lesbians, single mothers, adulterers – yes, even adulterers! – bisexuals, transsexuals, the intersex and couples such as Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson.

The practical outcomes for women of these exemptions  are starkly illustrated in this story of an unmarried teacher who became pregnant and was subsequently sacked from her job at a Christian kindergarten in Queensland.

Australian Christian Lobby CEO Jim Wallace claims Julia Gillard “reassured” religious organisations that they would retain their right to discriminate against women in this manner, as well as to discriminate against women who live in de facto relationships, women who commit “adultery,” women who are bisexual and lesbian, and the intersex.

It is unclear how much of this discrimination is directed against men, except in the case of gay men, who it seems are not regarded as “real” men by religious groups such as the ACL and Christians the ACL claims to represent. Women who transgress the ACL’s rigid criteria are demonised by the Lobby’s determination to exclude them from the right to employment, not because they are in any way unable to perform the work required, but because of their “lifestyle.” Whether or not the man who impregnates the single woman is similarly discriminated against remains unclear.

British philosopher AC Grayling in The Guardian:  I leave to you the not very congenial task of totting up the ways in which more enthusiastic forms of religion in general, not just Islam but Roman Catholicism, puritanical forms of Protestantism, and orthodox Judaism, have treated women: all the way from closeting them, covering the up, and silencing them, to sewing up their vaginas: it is a ghastly litany of repression, all the less excusable because discrimination against women which began in these ways persists in our society in modified forms: the fact that a woman earns about 70% of what an equally qualified and experienced man does is a residue in our own society of the attitude which in today’s sharia law states that a woman is worth half a man.

The ACL is anti-abortion, and against the use of the drug RU 486, licensed in Australia only for the termination of very early pregnancies. They strongly object to Australian aid being used to promote family planning in recipient countries. In other words the ACL is keenly interested in controlling and regulating women’s bodies, at home and abroad.

Former US President and Christian Jimmy Carter: The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views and set a new course that demands equal rights for women and men, girls and boys.

At their most repugnant, the belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo. It also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair and equal access to education, health care, employment, and influence within their own communities.

Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has chosen to walk a path that is very different from that of Mary Robinson as far as women are concerned. Ms Gillard has, by pandering to the demands of religious bodies for exemptions to anti discrimination law, legitimised the religious misogyny that perpetuates the myth of female inferiority, to the degree that we are not considered capable or worthy enough to retain control over our own bodies. Ms Gillard has legitimised a misogyny that would deny her the right to employment because of her “lifestyle” as a single woman living with a man. Would her partner Mr Mathieson also be denied employment?

Ms Gillard has legitimised a religious misogyny that believes it is righteous to sack unmarried pregnant women, at a time when they and their unborn babies most need support. At the same time, they would if they could deny a single pregnant woman access to abortion, if that was her choice.

Ms Gillard has thrown her support behind a Christian cult with unsettling links to “dominionist organisations throughout the world, not least through its own board and staff.” (I strongly recommend reading Chrys Stevenson’s excellent piece to which I have linked, in which she unpacks the connections between dominionists and the ACL).

The National Alliance of Christian Leaders (NACL) with whom ACL is closely associated, stated their goals thus: “… unity in truth; recognition of Christ’s authority in the church, family, individual and government; … legislature to force Christian values; … the kingdom permeating the structures of society; biblical government.”

Ms Gillard, an atheist, has capitulated to the demands of organisations such as these and has enabled them to enact their stated goal of introducing “legislature to force Christian values” on our secular society.

Dear Ms Gillard

I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by you.

Dear Ms Gillard

What does misogyny look like in modern Australia?

Dear Ms Gillard

I deplore double standards when it comes to misogyny and sexism.

Dear Ms Gillard

I am always offended by sexism and statements that are anti women.

Dear Ms Gillard

I agree absolutely that “Double standards should not rule this parliament” and “sexism is always unacceptable” and that “we are entitled to a better standard than this.”

Dear Ms Gillard

What are you going to do about it?

Jennifer Wilson. Woman.

ACL’s Wallace claims PM promised religious exemptions will stay

16 Jan
Wallace & Gillard

Swan & Gillard

( I’ve  just changed the caption on this image. When I put it up last evening I thought at first blush that was Jim Wallace.  Never noticed before how similar they look. LOL. Apologies.)

Jim Wallace, head of the Australian Christian Lobby, claims in this article that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reassured him that the privileges currently enjoyed by religious organisations that allow them exemption from anti discrimination laws will be maintained.

It’s timely to recall that the day after Ms Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, she made a point in her first speech after assuming office of inexplicably announcing that she would not make any changes to the Marriage Act. It’s likely that nobody much cared at that particular moment, reeling as we were from the shock of completely unanticipated events. Was this also an assurance to the ACL, an assurance that gay marriage would not be legalised on her watch?

The article states: The Government says those exemptions apply where the conduct conforms to the doctrines of the religion or is necessary to avoid offending the religious sensitivities of adherents.

On this evening’s ABC PM program, Labor Senator Doug Cameron complained somewhat bitterly that this matter had not been discussed in Caucus, and the PM has offered these reassurances to Mr Wallace without proper consultation. Senator Cameron feels strongly that the way to deal with this situation is for religious organisations to be as answerable to anti discrimination legislation as everyone else, when they are being funded from the public purse. Apparently this is the case in the UK, and it works well.

This book is for sale on the ACL website

This book is for sale on the ACL website

This image gives an insight into the kind of minds and belief systems to which Ms Gillard has astoundingly chosen to pander.

If a religion has to harm others in order to maintain its integrity, there is something seriously awry with that religion.

As for  “offending the religious sensitivities of adherents,” what is so exceptional about religious sensitivity that it must be exempted from laws that the rest of us must observe?

I’m told that Ms Gillard owes a significant debt to some Christians in the ALP who allegedly backed her ascension to the top job. Part of her repayment plan, apparently, is to maintain the illusion of exceptionalism these Christians nurture for themselves and their belief system.

We are faced with the choice between a devout catholic PM in Tony Abbott, and an atheist PM in Julia Gillard. However, given Ms Gillard’s unrelenting commitment to religious sensitivities and values, as opposed to basic human rights, one has to pity the voters who put their faith in the separation of church and state for the paucity of choice available to them.

The Wayne LaPierre solution to religious exemption from secular law

15 Jan

David Marr’s excellent piece in the Fairfax press yesterday is a reminder of just how conflicted our anti discrimination legislation is, and has been for some time.

Exemption from the law for religious organisations means they are permitted to behave in ways that are unlawful for the rest of us, because of their beliefs. For example, employing someone who does not engage in a heteronormative sexual life, employing a woman who becomes pregnant outside of marriage (the same rule does not apply to the man who impregnates her, by the way) and  employing people who live together unmarried (such as Prime Minister Julia Gillard, but her partner Tim Mathieson as well? This is not clear, perhaps it is only women religious institutions demand marry) transgresses some religious beliefs about how human beings ought to conduct themselves in their private lives. No religious institution should be obliged to put itself in a situation where its beliefs are insulted, it is argued, therefore they are all exempt from anti discrimination legislation that applies to everyone else.

I might find it difficult to work alongside someone who holds any or all of the above beliefs because they do not accord with mine and I find them offensive and insulting. However, were I to refuse the believer employment, or to terminate their employment because their beliefs trouble me, I will be committing an offence under the anti discrimination legislation and if they complain, I will be punished.

As I am not a religious institution, I must employ the religious regardless of my beliefs. This irrational imbalance continues, for some inexplicable reason, to be legitimised by the Labor government, itself led by an atheist woman living in a de facto relationship. In other words, as Marr points out, Prime Minister Gillard is legislating against herself.

Perhaps the solution is to declare atheism and agnosticism  religions, and apply for exemption from the law. I call this the Wayne LaPierre solution, after  the Executive President and CEO of the NRA. LaPierre recently claimed what is needed to stop bad guys with guns is good guys with guns. By the same reasoning, we might consider allowing the rest of us the privilege of denying employment to religious people as they may do to us. Then we will have achieved the equal right to deny a livelihood to everyone except ourselves and those who think like us. Which of us is good or bad will remain as subjective as it as ever been, but we’ll all have big guns with which to kill each other’s prospects.

On the other hand, the current consolidation of the anti discrimination laws offers a golden opportunity to effect changes that would revoke privileges extended to religious institutions, and level the playing field. Attorney General Nicola Roxon has introduced additions to the bill that now declare offending or insulting someone to be an unlawful act. Unless of course you are religious institution and then you can offend and insult somebody’s protected attributes (if they do not comply with your belief system) to your heart’s content by refusing to employ them, or by dismissing them on the grounds of that attribute, and you will get clean away with it. If we can accept additions, surely we can effect the subtraction of what is a most discriminating practice that makes a mockery of the entire legislation?

What we need to ask ourselves is: why are we prepared to allow religious institutions to behave in ways that are so unacceptable to the rest of the community that we have declared them unlawful?

The religious are entitled to their beliefs, of course. A secular state is not obliged to adapt its legal system to those beliefs, it is especially not required to do that when the adaptation is to behaviours that for the rest of the population are unlawful because they are deemed extremely harmful to others.

If an act is so undesirable that we have found it necessary to administer punishment to some of those who perform it, how can we say that same act is not undesirable because it is ameliorated by the balm of religious “belief?” And why on earth should we?

How to “lovingly” expel a homosexual student, or, God is in the house.

20 Feb

God hates fags.com via flickr

 

Brigadier Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby believes that a church school should have the right to expel any openly gay student.

“But I would expect any church that found itself in that situation to do that in the most loving way…I think it’s a loving response,” he says.

It’s legal for religious institutions in NSW to expel homosexual students, and Attorney-General John Hatzistergos, supports that law. While there are churches that oppose it, Jim Wallace gives it his whole-hearted support.

It’s difficult to know where to begin addressing the offensiveness of Wallace’s comments, but perhaps from a human rights point of view, it is most shocking in its reduction of the identity of a young human being solely to their sexual preference.

Nothing else about these students has any apparent value for Wallace, other than their sexuality. The intrinsic worth of the student is reduced to his or her sexual orientation. If the young person is brilliant, gifted, a high achiever – and gay, the Christian school should expel him or her, according to the well known Christian, Wallace.

“Lovingly,” of course.

Would this be another version of “tough love” perhaps?

How does one “lovingly” expel a young person from their school community because of their sexual orientation? Please explain.

Reducing a human being to one aspect of their character is a dehumanising tool used in all propaganda. When we can’t see another’s humanity, we’re far more likely to treat them badly.  It requires a leap of the imagination to make an identification with people who’ve been reduced to stereotypes, and many of us don’t want to/can’t be bothered with that imaginative exercise.

Propaganda ensures that certain lives (homosexual in this case) are not considered lives at all in the fullest sense. Reduced to the issue of sexual preference, and on the sole grounds that they are not heterosexual, gay students are punished by expulsion from their community, their lives stigmatized as deviant by their churches.

Failure to see young people as individuals in their own right leads to serious repercussions for them, and for society. Homophobic religious imperatives are determining the course of some students’ lives, with the support of politicians whose first concern is not the welfare of young people, but winning the religious vote.

Belief systems with discriminatory attitudes are putting young people at risk, and governments are supporting the process. This is described by Hatzistergos as maintaining “…the sometimes delicate balance between protecting individuals from unlawful discrimination while allowing people to practice their beliefs.”

Since he admits homophobia is “unlawful discrimination,” Hatzistergos’ position is that what the rest of the community has declared illegal is acceptable if it occurs within a belief system.  That church schools are granted permission to behave illegally makes a mockery of anti discrimination laws.

If a behaviour is illegal, it is illegal.

Religions in this country should be abiding by the laws of this country.

Around Australia, churches are exempt from anti discrimination legislation that prevents others from dismissing gay, lesbian, and trans gendered people, solely because of their sexual orientation.

Culturally salient beliefs normalize these problematic practices. One of these beliefs is that religious freedom trumps the anti discrimination culture.

But only some religious freedom, otherwise we’d be condoning genital mutilation and the polygamous and forced marriages of ten year old girls.

We’re selective about which religious freedoms we uphold.

Religious beliefs are fluid. Values change, often quite radically. There’s disagreement within religious circles about the expulsion of gay students.  It isn’t the government’s role to legalise these vacillating values, or to give legal validity to one point of view within the churches at the expense of another.

As our law declares discrimination illegal, the government’s role is to support and validate the country’s law.

Religions in this country should abide by the laws of this country. We require this of non Judeo Christians, especially those most recently arrived here. State and federal governments must require it of all religions in Australia, and particularly of all schools.

GOD IS IN THE HOUSE,  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Nick Cave, by Ben Houdijk via flickr

 

Homos roaming the streets in packs,
queer bashers with tyre-jacks
Lesbian counter-attacks
That stuff is for the big cities
Our town is very pretty
We have a pretty little square
We have a woman for a mayor
Our policy is firm but fair
Now that God is in the house
God is in the house
Any day now he’ll come out
God is in the house.


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