International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Australia (CCPR 01-12-2017)

The Committee considered the sixth periodic report of Australia (CCPR/C/AUS/6) at its 3418th and 3419th meetings (see CCPR/C/SR.3418 and 3419), held on 18 and 19 October 2017. At its 3442nd and 3444th meetings, held on 3 and 6 November 2017, it adopted the present concluding observations.

Concluding observations

B. Positive aspects

  1. The Committee commends the State party for its commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It welcomes the following measures taken by the State party:

(a) The adoption of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011, requiring a statement of compatibility with human rights for all bills and disallowable legislative instruments, and establishing the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights;

(b) The establishment of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and the Age Discrimination Commissioner;

(c) The establishment of a standing national human rights mechanism to strengthen engagement with human rights reporting;

(d) The amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status, in 2013;

(e) The adoption of the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender of July 2013.

C. Principal matters of concern and recommendations

Sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status

25. The Committee is concerned that infants and children born with intersex variations are sometimes subject to irreversible and invasive medical interventions for purposes of gender assignment, which are often based on stereotyped gender roles and are performed before the children concerned are able to provide fully informed and free consent (arts. 3, 7, 9, 17, 24 and 26).

26. The State party should give due consideration to the recommendations the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs made in its 2013 inquiry report on involuntary or coerced sterilization of intersex persons, and move to end irreversible medical treatment, especially surgery, of intersex infants and children, who are not yet able to provide fully informed and free consent, unless such procedures constitute an absolute medical necessity.

29. The Committee is concerned about the explicit ban on same-sex marriage in the Marriage Act 1961, which results in discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples, including in matters relating to divorce of couples who married overseas. While noting that the State party is currently conducting a voluntary, non-binding postal survey on the legalization of same-sex marriage, the Committee is of the view that resort to public opinion polls to facilitate upholding rights under the Covenant in general, and equality and non-discrimination of minority groups in particular, is not an acceptable decision-making method and that such an approach risks further marginalizing and stigmatizing members of minority groups (arts. 17 and 26).

30. The State party should revise its laws, including the Marriage Act, to ensure, irrespective of the results of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, that all its laws and policies afford equal protection to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, couples and families, also taking into account the Committee’s Views in communications No. 2172/2012, G. v. Australia, and No. 2216/2012, C. v Australia.

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