From the Human Rights Law Centre | Australian Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill threatens women’s equality: UN told

The Human Rights Law Centre made a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva about the threat the Religious Discrimination Bill poses to reproductive rights. This aligns with Family Planning Victoria's recent official submission in response to the Second Exposure Draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill. Read more about their statement here:

Media Release From Human Rights Law Centre | For immediate release: Wednesday 4 March 2020

Australian Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill threatens women’s equality: UN told

As International Women’s Day nears, the UN has heard that Australia is set to undermine people’s healthcare, while giving religious bodies unprecedented privileges to discriminate with laws that will make it harder for women to access contraception and abortion.

Overnight in a statement supporting the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, the Human Rights Law Centre told the UN Human Rights Council that the Morrison Government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill would unacceptably prioritise the personal religious views of health practitioners at the expense of their patient’s right to health.

Edwina MacDonald, Legal Director with the Human Rights Law Centre, who is in Geneva to monitor Australia’s last year as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, said:

“The proposed law would essentially tell doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals that it is ok to pass judgement on a patient when they’re seeking medical care. Already, we have evidence of doctors with religious views standing in the way of women’s access to essential reproductive healthcare, like abortion and contraception. No person should have to fear being abandoned in a time of medical need because of the personal religious views of their doctor.”

The Special Rapporteur has urged members of the Human Rights Council to ensure protections for religious belief do not deny women, girls and LGBTIQ+ people their rights to equality, non-discrimination and access to healthcare.

“As we approach International Women’s Day, our Government should be doing everything it can to make sure every woman in Australia can access the reproductive healthcare she needs, not making it harder. It must promote gender equality at home in Australia, as well as here at the United Nations.

“Rather than continuing to let politicians of the day pick and choose whose rights they want to protect, we should also be taking a holistic approach. It’s well past time Australia had a Charter of Human Rights that benefits the whole community and ensures our governments are guided by the values of freedom, equality, compassion and dignity when making new laws," said MacDonald.

Watch the Human Rights Law Centre's UN statement.

Read the Human Rights Law Centre’s UN statement.

Read the Special Rapporteur’s report on gender-based violence and discrimination in the name of religion.

Human Rights Law Centre media contacts:

Edwina MacDonald, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre: +41 779 531 557 (Geneva)

Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre: +41 419 100 519 (Australia)