Over the weekend we saw the celebration of women all around the world with International Women’s Day. It is an acknowledgement of achievement of women everywhere, striving for female empowerment in both public and private sectors of their lives.
However, within this unified agenda that focuses on the advancement of women, we must recognise that a subtle embedded inequality exists.
In the fight for gender equality, deeply rooted internal divisions based on race and ethnicity obstruct women from ethnic and cultural minority backgrounds from achieving the same equal opportunities that fellow ‘racially privileged’ women seek. These women face the dual disadvantage of being subject to multiple intersecting and overlapping systems of oppression that are associated with both race and gender.
Studies show that women who live in such intersected spaces are largely under-represented in the organisational and legal contexts of Australia, and as such their access to these systems is qualitatively different to that of the access received by women of white Anglo-Celtic background.
In particular, first generation Australian women from an ethnic minority background not only have to combat the power struggle involved in the gender equality movement, but further face a number of structural and systematic barriers that their ‘mainstream’ counterparts are not subjected to; such as:
In the event of taking action against workplace discrimination, these women are required to be re-interpreted on the grounds of their sex or race, rather than the intersection of both. Australian law in itself has proven to be problematic in accommodating these intersected identities of women of ethnic minority, treating gender and race as mutually exclusive. An excellent example is Australia’s anti-discrimination laws, such as the Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Discrimination Act, in which women of ethnic minority fall through the cracks of definition, and when they are defined, it is only relative to Western standards.
In light of International Women’s Day, we must come together to understand and recognise the importance of providing all women a right to equal expression and definition across all platforms (whether it be social, political, economic or organisational and legal) in the fight for gender equality.
Keeping in line with this year’s theme of “Inspiring Change”, let’s empower women to bring about structural, institutional and cultural changes that provide all women with an environment free from discrimination.
All Together Now is proud to be one of 156 organisations that have endorsed an open letter to Australia’s Attorney General about Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. All Together Now’s Managing Director, Priscilla Brice, was also part of the panel at the press conference. The letter was sent to the Attorney on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013.
10 December 2013
We write to urge you not to repeal the racial vilification provisions in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). It is vital that there are strong and effective protections against racial vilification in Australian law.
Racial hatred causes serious harm to individuals and diminishes us all as a community. It increases the likelihood of racial discrimination and racist violence.
Unfortunately racism remains widespread in our Australian community. Racial vilification complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission increased 59 per cent last year. According to the Challenging Racism Project, approximately 20 per cent of Australians have experienced forms of race hate.
The Racial Discrimination Act has long played a critical role in combating racial hatred and protecting individuals and groups against discrimination and hate speech based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.
The protections against racial vilification in section 18C of the Act make it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate on the basis of race. Section 18D contains safeguards that protect freedom of speech and appropriately balance it with freedom from vilification. Fair comment on public interest matters is completely protected by these safeguards if it is done reasonably and in good faith.
The right to freedom of speech is fundamental to our democracy but it is not absolute. Australian laws place limits on our speech and expression in areas like defamation, false advertising, sexual harassment and threats to kill.
The Australian Government should demonstrate its commitment to the diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious communities that make up the rich fabric of our multicultural nation by ruling out any repeal of the racial vilification provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Australia is obliged under international law to prohibit acts that promote racial hatred. Repealing these provisions will produce a situation in which there are no clear limits for racist hate speech in Australia. Strong and effective protections against racial vilification must be maintained. Any changes to the laws should only be undertaken with extreme caution and involve a comprehensive public consultation process.
The media release and further information is available on the Human Rights Law Centre website. Media coverage included:
PM (ABC NEWS): Groups urge Fed Govt to retain race act
SBS World News Australia: Pleas for strong and effective racial vilification laws
News.com.au: Goodes against changes to racial laws
All Together Now is one of the three charities chosen by The Body Shop Foundation for their Vote With Your Lips fundraising campaign.
From 21 January to 3 February, when you purchase a Dragon Fruit Lip Butter at The Body Shop, you will be able to choose which of the three charities will receive the profits from your purchase. The more people who vote for All Together Now, the greater the percentage of profits we receive! So vote with your lips and help All Together Now make a difference in Australia during 2013!