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Reviewing Human Rights of Women in Australia



Obligations of the Australian Government towards human rights of women.

Obligations which are not met by the Australian Government

Obligations met by the Australian Government



Introduction to The Sex Discrimination Act

Human rights are centered on values of equality, dignity, and respect exchanged through communities, faiths, and ideologies (Howard & Donnelly, 1986). It is about being treated equally, treating other people equally, and possessing the capacity in everyday lives to make real decisions (Kamruzzaman & Das, 2016). Respect for human rights is the foundation of powerful ethnicities in which everybody can make offerings and fully participate (Human Rights, 2013). Women do not often have the ability and capacity to obtain and implement their rights on the very same level as men because of certain societal systems, customs, prejudices, and beliefs towards women's roles in society. The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the main international convention on human rights (Mansouri, 2012) aimed at ensuring that women's human rights are upheld on an equal footing with men (Human Rights, 2008). The aim of this report is to discuss the obligation the Australian Government has towards the promotion and protection of human rights of women, the obligations which are not met by the Australian Government, and obligations that have been met by the Australian Government.

Obligations of The Australian Government Towards Human Rights of Women

The Australian Government has obligation to create an equitable community (Christine, 2018) in which men and women have access to equal opportunities and facilities and can therefore engage and make contributions to Australia's social and economic well-being. The adoption of CEDAW by Australia over 30 years ago was a major step in the nation's acceptance of the need for a concerted and well-conceived attempt to close the gender inequality divide throughout all forms of society and government.

The compliance of the government including its human rights obligations in law, such as those under CEDAW, is reviewed by a legislative process (Byrnes, 2013). This started under the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth) from 2012. All Legislation and inadmissible statutory instruments adopted into the parliament of Australia should be preceded by a declaration of conformity laying out the alignment of the laws with Australia's human rights obligations. The PJC on Human Rights reviews the conformity of all legislation and disallowable statutory instruments. The committee also investigates issues of human rights referred by the AG. The aim of these procedures is to promote early and continuing human rights consideration in legislation and policy growth and to enhance parliamentary oversight. The obligation of the Australian Government is to fight trafficking in human beings and enslavement in all aspects, which include sexual and other ways of labor abuse, and to prohibit all forms of discrimination against women (PMC, n.d.)

Obligations Which Are Not Met by The Australian Government

Still, Australian women face a substantial amount of inequality in their daily lives, even after Australia has ratified the treaty of CEDAW (Rosenblum, 2011). This is mainly due to not complying with CEDAW by the Australian Government, as CEDAW has yet to be completely implemented into domestic legislation (Darrensmith, 2019).

A public referendum was issued by the government in 2009, which found that there was widespread public support for the Bill of Rights, including stronger protection of the rights of women. The government, however, opted not to pass a Bill of Rights. A very small range of rights, such as the right to trial by jury, are covered by the Constitution of Australia. However, these rights are very restricted and are not women-specific.

In Australia, women still face discrimination and deprivation, and for many women, sexual discrimination remains a brutal truth. For instance, since the age of 15, almost 1 in 3 women in Australia has encountered physical abuse, and 1 woman is murdered by her former or current lover every week in Australia, 21 % of women aged above 15 years has encountered at the workplace with sexual harassment, 49 % mothers at some stage during maternity witnessed sexism at the workplace, etc. (Human Rights, 2014).

In Australia, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women acknowledged areas of change, involving equality in marriage, the implementation of the mechanism for paid paternity leave, and the ban on oppression on the basis of sexuality, sexual identity, gender expression, and obligations of the family. More than 90 guidelines for reform were, however, also released, showing that negative factors far overshadow advancement on women's rights (Nawaz and Deegan, 2018). Such recommendations shall be adopted by the Australian Government in order to fulfill the objective of CEDAW.

Obligations Met by The Australian Government

The Australian Government has met its obligation by enacting various statutes for the protection of the human rights of the woman which are as stated below:

  1. Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth): This Act is intended to safeguard females against discrimination (Charlesworth, 2010).
  2. Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth): This Act is designed to enhance equity of jobs for women which ensures that they should be paid equally.
  1. Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth): The intent of this Act is to provide occupational protection and enhance job prospects among men and women. This ensures that minimum pay must be met, ensuring that women are adequately compensated for the jobs they do. 
  1. Marriage Act 1961 (Cth): The Act ensures that marriage will not be coerced in Australia-women and men have the right to choose a partner.
  1. Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth): The goal of this Act is to provide equal opportunities and eradicate discrimination against women.
  1. Australian Citizenship Act 2007: On the grounds of sex, citizenship is not discriminatory.
  1. Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007: By removing domestic abuse in Australia, the act aims to protect women.
  2. Crimes Act 1900: The government seeks to eradicate sexual harassment and criminalize it.

Women are provided with recourse to all of the rights in Australia. In the legal structure, this is expressed. This includes the rights to education, healthcare services, access to law, live freely, financial independence, go whenever they wish to, voting rights, to be qualified and be equal to men in every aspect. In college, the office, and in the home, women have recourse to such rights (Arts UNSW, n.d.).

The Australian Government has started the step of removing its reservation to the CEDAW concerning the exclusion of women from the position of combatants, such as the removal of the relevant exception from the anti-discrimination law of Australia. This reflects the strong willingness of Australia to the human rights of women and equality of gender nationally, regionally, and internationally (PMC, n.d.).

Conclusion on The Sex Discrimination Act

In light of the above, it can be concluded that the Australian Government has tried to combat the menace of discrimination towards women by enacting various statutes in consideration with the CEDAW, but, still, the menace is present in the society. To stop this, it is recommended to adopt the Bills of Right so that the ineffectiveness of the current system can be tackled.

References for The Sex Discrimination Act

Arts UNSW. (n.d.) Women’s rights in Australia: An introduction for people who came to Australia as refugees. Retrieved from https://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/documents/2_Womens_Rights_WEB.pdf

Byrnes, A. C. (2013). The implementation of the CEDAW in Australia: Success, trials, tribulations and continuing struggle. Women’s human rights. CEDAW in international, regional, and national law, 323-357. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139540841.016

Charlesworth, S. (2010). The Sex Discrimination Act: Advancing Gender Equality and Decent Work? Canberra: ANU E Press.

Christensen, H. (2018). Legislating community engagement at the Australian local government level. Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance. DOI: 10.5130/cjlg.v0i21.6515

Darrensmith. (2019). Briefing: Australia’s compliance with CEDAW. Retrieved from https://www.clcnsw.org.au/briefing-australias-compliance-cedaw

Fredman, S., Goldblatt, B., & Women, U. N. (2015). Gender equality and human rights. NY: UN.

Howard, R. E., & Donnelly, J. (1986). Human dignity, human rights, and political regimes. American Political Science Review, 80(3), 801-817.

Human Rights (2008). Women’s human rights: United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2008). Retrieved from https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/publications/womens-human-rights-united-nations-convention-elimination

Human Rights. (2013). What are human rights?. Retrieved from https://humanrights.gov.au/about/what-are-human-rights

Human Rights. (2014). How to promote gender equality in laws and policies in Australia?. Retrieved from https://humanrights.gov.au/about/news/speeches/how-promote-gender-equality-laws-and-policies-australia

Kamruzzaman, M., & Das, S. K. (2016). The evaluation of human rights: An overview in historical perspective. American Journal of Service Science and Management, 3(2), 5-12.

Mansouri, H. (2012). A study on convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Management Science Letters, 2(3), 775-780.

Nawaz, M. and Deegan, T. (2018). UN delivers strong rebuke to Australian government on women’s rights. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/un-delivers-strong-rebuke-to-australian-government-on-womens-rights-100089

PMC. (n.d.). Australia's eighth report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against women August 2010-July 2014, Retrieved from https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/8th-CEDAW-Report.pdf

Rosenblum, D. (2011). Unsex Cedaw, or What's wrong with Women's Rights. Colum. J. Gender & l., 20(2), 98-194.

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