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UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Australia (CEDAW 25-07-2018)
The Committee considered the eighth periodic report of Australia (CEDAW/C/AUS/8) at its 1602nd and 1603rd meetings (see CEDAW/C/SR.1602 and CEDAW/C/SR.1603), held on 3 July 2018. The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/AUS/Q/8 and the responses of Australia are contained in CEDAW/C/AUS/Q/8/Add.1.
B. Positive aspects
- The Committee welcomes the progress achieved since the consideration in 2010 of the State party’s seventh periodic report (CEDAW/C/AUL/7) in undertaking legislative reforms, in particular the adoption of the following:
(a) Amendments to the Marriage Act 1961, guaranteeing the right to marry for all couples, regardless of gender, in 2017;
(b) Amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 of the New South Wales legislature, extending the powers of the police to detain defendants in cases of gender-based violence so as to ensure the immediate safety of the victim and promoting the exchange of information between support services, in 2014;
(c) Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act, criminalizing forced marriage, in 2013;
(d) Amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status, in 2013;
(e) Workplace Gender Equality Act, in 2012;
(f) Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment Act, introducing the paid parental leave scheme and the “dad and partner” pay programme, in 2012;
(g) Amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, prohibiting direct discrimination against employees on the basis of their family responsibilities and strengthening protection against sexual harassment in the workplace and in schools, in 2011;
(h) Amendment to the Family Law Act, introducing a definition of family violence that includes examples of behaviour that may constitute family violence, including physical, emotional and economic abuse, in 2011.
D. Principal areas of concern and recommendations
23. The Committee takes note of the State party’s initiatives to challenge negative attitudes that exacerbate gender-based violence against women. It is concerned, however, that the absence of a holistic strategy to address negative social and cultural patterns in public discourse, the media, the workplace, schools, universities, health institutions and the judiciary exacerbates discrimination against various groups of women on the basis of their gender, belonging to an indigenous group, migration, asylum or social status, religion, ethnicity, nationality, colour, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
24. The Committee recommends that the State party develop a comprehensive strategy to overcome discriminatory stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society and raise awareness of the benefits for Australian society of respecting and protecting the diversity of its population, aiming at the full inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, migrant women and their daughters, including those born in the State party, women belonging to ethnic minority groups, refugee and asylum-seeking women, women with disabilities, foreign women, older women, women in poverty, women belonging to religious minority groups, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons.
- The Committee takes note of the State party’s commitment to providing support for women who are victims of forced marriage, regardless of their cooperation with the prosecution authorities. It is concerned, however, about the following:
(a) The low number of prosecutions of cases of forced marriage;
(b) The lack of systematic data collection on the number of women who have been subjected to forced marriage or female genital mutilation;
(c) The conduct of medically unnecessary procedures on intersex infants and children before they reach an age when they are able to provide their free, prior and informed consent, as well as inadequate support and counselling for families of intersex children and inadequate remedies for victims;
(d) The non-consensual administration of contraceptives to, performance of abortions on and sterilization of women with disabilities.
- Recalling the joint general recommendation No. 31 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women/general comment No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2014) on harmful practices, the Committee recommends that the State party ensure adequate protection and support for victims of forced marriage, regardless of their collaboration with the prosecution authorities, and also recommends that the State party:
(a) Build the capacity of immigration and child protection workers, law enforcement officers and community organizations working on domestic violence, health and education to detect and respond to cases of early and forced marriage and investigate and prosecute such cases;
(b) Ensure that the multi-agency data integration project enables the systematic and periodic collection of data on harmful practices in the State party, disaggregated by age, ethnicity, disability and migration status;
(c) Adopt clear legislative provisions that explicitly prohibit the performance of unnecessary surgical or other medical procedures on intersex children before they reach the legal age of consent, implement the recommendations made by the Senate in 2013 on the basis of its inquiry into the involuntary or coerced sterilization of intersex persons, provide adequate counselling and support for the families of intersex children and provide redress to intersex persons having undergone such medical procedures;
(d) Abolish the practices of the non-consensual administration of contraceptives to, the performance of abortion on and the sterilization of women and girls with disabilities, and develop and enforce strict guidelines on the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls with disabilities who are unable to consent.
41. The Committee welcomes the launch of the Connected Beginnings programme to eliminate barriers to access to education and barriers to educational attainment for indigenous women and girls. It is concerned, however, about the following:
(a) Inconsistent data collection on educational enrolment, achievement and attrition rates among states and territories, especially with regard to women and girls belonging to indigenous communities, women and girls with disabilities and migrant women and their daughters, including those born in the State party;
(b) The laws on education in certain states and territories that allow for the suspension or expulsion of pregnant students and young mothers;
(c) The low proportion of less than 1 in 20 girls, compared with 1 in 5 boys, who envisage a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in which jobs are high-paying and in high demand;
(d) The lack of temporary special measures to promote the participation of indigenous women and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics;
(e) The impact of harassment and bullying in school environments on women and girls who are exposed to intersecting forms of discrimination, and the withdrawal of funding for the Safe Schools programme.
- In line with its general recommendation No. 36 (2017) on the right of girls and women to education, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that its multi-agency data integration project includes data on the educational enrolment and attainment of girls and women at all levels of education, disaggregated by age, ethnicity, disability and migration status;
(b) Implement the recommendations issued by the Children’s Commissioner in 2017 to prohibit suspension, expulsion and denial of education on the basis of pregnancy or motherhood and ensure that there are no restrictions on the return of young mothers to education after childbirth;
(c) Implement plans to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics academy for indigenous girls and make use of information and communications technology to reach remote regions with specialized instruction;
(d) Adopt temporary special measures to promote the participation of indigenous women and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and provide more scholarships in those fields;
(e) Build the capacities of educational staff to create safer and more inclusive learning environments, including for indigenous women and girls, women and girls with disabilities, migrant women and their daughters, including those born in the State party, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons.
- The Committee acknowledges the comprehensive health coverage in the State party. It notes the following, however, with concern:
(a) The lack of harmonization in state and territory legislation on abortion and the harassment and discrimination of women and girls seeking abortion services;
(b) The deteriorating mental health situation of women and girls facing intersecting forms of discrimination;
(c) That only severe mental health disabilities are addressed through the national disability insurance scheme;
(d) That indigenous women, migrant women and their daughters, including those born in the State party, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons face discrimination by health service providers or through insufficient access to health services;
(e) That some states have a requirement that medical procedures have been performed, in order for persons to change their legal gender.
- The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Implement the recommendation made by the Children’s Commissioner in 2017 to review state and territory laws, policies and practices to guarantee access to legal and prescribed abortion services and to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights among women and girls, parents, teachers, medical professionals and the general public and create safe zones around abortion clinics;
(b) Increase efforts and resources to address the deteriorating mental health situation of women and girls, in particular young mothers, indigenous women, women with disabilities, women in detention, migrant women and their daughters, including those born in the State party, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons, and reinforce preventive measures;
(c) Allocate sufficient funding to the national disability insurance scheme to extend coverage for mental health services to women and girls with all types of mental health disorders and disabilities;
(d) Ensure access to non-discriminatory health services for indigenous women, migrant women and their daughters, including those born in the State party, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons;
(e) Abolish requirements regarding medical treatment for transgender women who wish to obtain legal recognition of their gender, ensure that those requirements are abolished throughout the State party’s territory and guarantee the rights of transgender women to bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination.