The proposed change to the Sex Discrimination Act is not extending to transgender students. The act fails to protect them from expulsion within Australian schooling institutions.
The proposal to amend the act rose after a group of young protesters gather outside Citipointe Christian College, holding banners stating ‘You will not erase us.’ This is the protest which becomes the basis of a new amendment.
In response, the school releases an enrollment contract to parents which enforces that students must agree to their biological gender. As a result of the uproar, the policy becomes unenforceable. This is not only a direct exclusion of sexual preference, but it’s an exclusion of humanity’s rights. As per the Australian Human Rights Commission, human rights are
“based on principles of dignity, equality and mutual respect, which are shared across cultures, religions and philosophies. They are about being treated fairly, treating others fairly and having the ability to make genuine choices in our daily lives”.
There are new plans to change the criteria of the Sex Discrimination Act. The plans, however, do not extend to protect transgender students from expulsion due to sexual orientation. The agenda of the administration is seemingly corrupt; elections come before amendment considerations. Fair treatment and human rights issues are clearly not a priority. Reflections of that fact are evident in Morrison’s administration decision to postpone amending the bill; due to the fact that elections are coming up on the 21st of May, 2022.
As a result, finance Minister Simon Birmingham is only planning to partially remove the section to protect staff and students based on their sexual preference. Transgender students can be excluded under the act of the Australian Law Reform Commission. Liberal MP Bridget Archer on the evening of 8th February, voted against the Religious Discrimination Bill. She was plauged with severe distress and utter shock because the bill amendments excluded students that identify as transgender.
A Backwards Policy
Why are students subject to exclusion by way of their gender identity? It’s an archaic and conservatively outdated mindset. This is a risky move to make as not only Generation Z, but youth in general, are advocates for freedom of sexual orientation, and increasingly politically aware. They’re a powerful force to take on. In reality, they hold so much power in the hands of their social media accounts. Which has become a powerful debate forum without an elitist title in order to find an audience. The ignorance of only partially changing the act which excludes transgender students is causing an outrage. Youth are taking autonomy and control of their destinities in how they identify, in a society that’s increasingly accepting of sexual freedoms.
Affecting Mental Health
A transgender student, Olivia Stewart, told the press in Canberra that the failure of the government to protect transgender students has affected her mental health.
It’s shocking that students’ basic rights can be put into question within our modern society. On the surface level, we have come so far in acceptance.
Stewart has been directly discriminated against throughout her life. For example, when she chose to come out as Trans at school in Year 8. The school put her leadership position into question, explaining that she might be subject to bullying. She was ‘invited’ to leave the school.
Transgender children are the most vulnerable group in debate. In an interview with The Guardian, LGBTQ advocate Ian Thorpe urges the government to “look at some of the most marginalized and disadvantaged people in this country, this is a group of people that we should be protecting”.
A Worrisome Loophole Left In the Act
Some additional protections are not sufficient. Morrison proposes to amend the Sex Discrimination Act and protect transgender students from discrimination. In return for passing the Religious Discimination Bill which allows schools to discriminate on the grounds of their religious beliefs. Rooney Croome describes it to Sky News as “giving one hand and taking the other” (LGBTIQ+ advocate). Religious schools will still be able to discriminate against transgender students under the Sex Discrimination Act.
Simon Birmingham confirms last week that the draft of the Religious Freedom Bill won’t protect transgender students. He continues to claim that transgender students have a more difficult time in schools because single-sex schools need to operate within discrimination laws. Morrison has said that the bill doesn’t seek to provide religious schools with the right to expel transgender students. A worrisome loophole remains in recent draft amendments. It is leaving schools with the right to discriminate against trans students.
Per new.com.au, Morrison believes his plans to put forward an amendment to the Sex Discimination Act will go
“well together with the religious discrinination bill which I hope and certainty intend to become an act in the near future.”
The Prime Minister is upholding his view to the public in this debate, that religious freedom is not just about people with religious beliefs.
Will Christian Schools Survive?
Christian Schools are debating against the modification of the act because striking out the exemptions would affect the image of their curriculum. It does put into question the future of Christian schools in the community, not only within Australia but worldwide, as society progresses. Will conservative traditions and institutions survive in the face of change, and political debate?
Schools will have to find a new way to navigate the space in which they operate in. From changes to bathrooms, curriculums, and sporting activities. The Religious Discrimination Bill refers to the universality of human rights within international law. But this doesn’t account for the gaps in the existing federal anti-discrimination laws.
Feeding Spiralling Mental Health
It is a delicate subject and group to be debating their basic rights so flippantly. Trans-groups are already going through figuring out how they see themselves in society. Growing up is already in itself a daunting task. Per The Guardian, Dr Yves Rees explains that
“It’s intensely distressing to see our basic rights up for debate. And it’s beyond painful to contemplate how this will affect trans kids. Do not underestimate the detrimental impact of this ‘debate’ on trans well-being”
Without the political foundation grounding our civil society, this makes for an unstable and discriminatory environment. Which will affect their daily treatment in their social, political and economic lives. If the group continue to feel marginalised by the elites mental health will become an increasing concern.
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