Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
Address: Chemin des Fins 2, Case Postale 102, 1211 Geneva 19 - Telephone: 022 799 9100 - Fax: 022 799 9178

Human Rights Council - 19th Regular Session

Panel on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and

gender identity

Australian statement

7 March 2012

Australia believes that human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and that all people – including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals – are entitled to the rights and protections afforded by international human rights law.

We thank the High Commissioner for her report. We are concerned with the significant number of human rights violations referenced – particularly killings, other violence and torture. These egregious violations must not be tolerated. Other serious concerns such as discrimination in employment, healthcare and education are also clearly problems that require a robust response – including from this Council. But we were equally encouraged by the many examples of best practice that were documented, particularly training and educational initiatives and work undertaken by various national human rights institutions. More steps like these must be encouraged.

Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity remain a challenge in all regions of the world. For its part, Australia is continuing its efforts to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2008 we introduced sweeping reforms to remove discrimination to enable same-sex couples to be recognised by dozens of national laws, allowing them and their families to receive the same benefits and entitlements as opposite sex de-facto couples. Last year we gave Australians the ability to choose what gender they want to be listed as on a new passport - providing more flexibility, convenience and protections to gender diverse Australians.

But challenges remain and more work needs to be done. Sex and gender diverse people continue to face difficulties in interactions with government and society, and are not enjoying the full complement of human rights to which they are entitled. We are currently drafting guidelines to assist government agencies implement a consistent approach to recognising sex and gender as well as the documents required to effect a change of gender on various government records. Given Australia’s federal system of government, we will also work with our states and territories to consider positive changes to the process for legally changing ones sex on birth certificates to better reflect gender diversity.

We look forward to engaging constructively with other delegations in a continuing dialogue in the Council on these vital issues. We would be grateful for the panellists’ suggestions of how the Council could take forward consideration of this issue, including ways to continue the sharing of best practices and experiences. For example, how can thematic Special Rapporteurs best be encouraged to consider these issues within their existing mandates? We would also welcome panellists’ comments on the High Commissioner’s suggestion on the need for more regular reporting on these important issues.