Why the religious discrimination bill will overthrow women’s rights


As women in Australia rally against the government’s response to sexual violence, fire is about to be set on women’s rights fire.

If the Morrison government brings back its infamous religious discrimination bill in 2021, as Michaelia Cash has suggested, the Morrison government will have definitely sealed its fate with many female voters.

The problem with the bill was that instead of preventing discrimination against believers, it allowed discrimination in the name of faith.

While media reports have focused on the issues raised by the LGBTIQ + community about this bill, the intersectional concerns of women in Australia must be heard.

In the current political environment, it is hard to believe that the government will introduce a bill so harmful to women. In what will be one of the biggest reversals of Australian women’s rights of this century, the bill will remove hard-fought protections in the workplace and in healthcare.

The bill would allow so-called “statements of belief” to override all workplace codes of conduct, and even anti-bullying laws in some states.

For example, a man in a managerial position could turn to social media to deplore the single status of one of his collaborators, or to condemn the women in his office for being employed outside the office. House.

A single mother who, when she drops her child off at daycare, may be told by an educator that she is guilty of having divorced.

In these cases, and many others like them, the person projecting the aspirations would be protected by the bill.

Given our work in women’s health services, we are particularly concerned about the impact of the bill on women’s access to essential health care.

The bill provides for a “conscientious objection” for all health care providers to any treatment they find objectionable. This allows health care providers to refuse the treatment women need, even when it is medically necessary, without referring them to another care provider.

For example, a pharmacist might refuse to provide the emergency contraceptive pill or refuse to provide hormone therapy; a doctor may intentionally mislead a patient or refuse to prescribe contraceptives; and a general practitioner could tell a patient who has been sexually assaulted that she invited the abuse because of her appearance or behavior.

The bill also allows health care providers to refuse to provide necessary health information, or even to refuse referral to a doctor who could provide the information.

Under the bill, health care providers could say things that are offensive to patients – misogynistic statements, blaming victims, stigmatizing.

Indeed, the bill allows health professionals to express to patients beliefs that cause them psychological harm, including at a level defined by law as causing “distress, grief, fear or anger “.

How bad could it be?

Both versions of the bill allowed for “justifiable” negative effects on patients if decisions or statements are based on religious beliefs. In an attempt to define this, the second version of the bill says that harm is considered unjustifiable if it results in death or serious injury. Minor or moderate injuries or damage to the health and well-being of the patient are therefore permitted.

It has never been clear why the bill puts so much emphasis on health professionals.

The right of a healthcare professional to conscientious objection is already enshrined in legislation (such as various state and territorial laws legislating on access to procedures for termination of pregnancy and end of life) and in professional codes of conduct.

Rolling back equity in employment and health care threatens to re-stigmatize women in all of our diversity and reignite the chauvinism we hoped was waning.

We call on the most moderate and sensible members of government to ensure that the religious discrimination bill is completely dropped.

Make the canning bill a turning point in the Morrison government’s relationship with Australian women.

We also call on the Labor opposition to make it clear that it will vote en bloc against this backward legislation.

Show us that you care about women’s lives, our health and our safety.


Bonney Corbin is the National Chairperson of the Australian Women’s Health Network. Bonney is an urban planner and planner with postgraduate degrees in public policy and conflict resolution. Bonney works at Marie Stopes Australia as a Policy Officer, having worked at the intersections of women’s rights, gender-based violence and determinants of health in Australia, South and South East Asia, Middle East and in the South Pacific. His other board appointments include Genetic Alliance Australia and Violence Prevention Australia.

Jo flanagan is CEO of Women’s Health Tasmania and a board member of the Australian Women’s Health Network. In addition to working in women’s services, Jo led Tasmania’s largest NGO social policy unit for 15 years and has worked extensively in social policy, advocacy and research. Jo is a member of the Tasmanian Fetal Alcohol Syndrome State Coordinating Group, the Tasmanian Government’s Family Violence Advisory Group, and is co-chair of the Tasmanian Sexual and Reproductive Health Collaborative Group.

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