The End of SOP 432

July 7, 2014 in General

It is with heavy heart and some anger that I write this blog under urgency. Louisa Wall’s Supplementary Order Paper 432, which sought to concretely add gender identity to the Human Rights Act 1993 under the aegis of the Statutes Amendment Act No 4 has been shelved because the SOP is “too substantive” for the Statutes Amendment Act, which is only intended as a technical bill which makes minor refinements and adjustments to other legislation. Therefore, the Government Administration select committee has resolved not to hear any submissions related to SOP 432.

This is a completely unacceptable situation. Apart from the Northern Territory, all other Australian federal, state and territorial jurisdictions include gender identity provisions within their antidiscrimination laws. The United Kingdom added gender identity to its antidiscrimination Equality Act 2010. Like Australia’s stubborn refusal to see reason and pass federal or state marriage equality legislation, transgender rights has analogously become the frontline for LGBT rights in both New Zealand and Canada. Both the Key and Harper administrations are now obstructing the progress of  remedial legislation intended to rectify the glaring absence of gender identity from our respective national antidiscrimination laws.  In New Zealand’s case, the Crown Law Office opinion that ‘reads” gender identity into the sex/gender clause of the Human Rights Act 1993 is being (ab)used to prevent substantive reform, as Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and Justice Minister Judith Collins have cited it to excuse the Key administration’s inertia on this front. In Canada’s case, Bill C-279 had reached its second reading in the Canadian Senate, having earlier passed muster in the House of Commons, until Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued the Senate on unrelated issues of financial mismanagement.

We should not be demoralised at this further delay, however. Is the Prime Minister willing to provide centre-right leadership on this issue as he did with marriage equality and progress the situation of transgender New Zealanders? If not, then perhaps we should elect a government that does intend to implement this long-overdue reform instead. To add insult to injury, Key also signalled punitive retrenchment of the Prostitution Reform Act at Family First’s Forum on the Family, when it comes to street sex work, never mind the fact that all of the professional associations that made submissions against the Manukau City Council (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill did so because crackdowns against street sex work have manifestly not worked in the context of New South Wales’ Summary Offences Act 1988 and will not do so over here. Moreover, as Dr Gillian Abel at the Otago University School of Public Health tells us, a significant proportion of South Auckland street sex workers are Maori and Pacific Island whakawahine, fa’afafine and faikaleite. Where are they supposed to go if there’s a crackdown on street sex work, given that Auckland City Council bans them from working from council rental accomodation and off the streets, and given that some of these women are homeless? How are they supposed to support their whanau or aiga?

I certainly do not intend to rest on this issue. After this election is over, one of my priorities will be to continue to press the case for the inclusion of gender identity discrimination within New Zealand’s Human Rights Act, using as many evidence-based proofs as I can marshall.  I will not rest until I have browbeaten, harangued and nagged Parliament into action on this glaring and shameful anomaly within our human rights legislation and record.

(And a word to Bob McCoskrie and Family First…frankly,   moronic derivative ravings about ‘bathroom bills’ do his side of the debate no credit whatsoever. But then, I guess that if  Christian Right transphobes really have nothing better to say than merely parrot ridiculous US fringe tabloid drivel, then no wonder that anti-transgender referenda have been knocked back in California and Maryland,  across the Pacific. All things come to those who wait long enough.)

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