08 July 2014
Changes in the law expand the areas of possible sex discrimination. Now discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, gender identity or intersex status is outlawed. Previously, federal law only examined discrimination on the basis of “sexual preference” in the area of employment or occupation.
The definition of gender identity has been expanded to include the way a person expresses or presents their gender and recognises that a person may not identify as either male or female. The new ground of “intersex status” recognises being intersex as being about biological variations not gender identity.
“Different sex” rather than “opposite sex” is used throughout the legislation, consistent with the new definitions of gender identity and intersex status in recognition that a person may not identify as either male or female.
The laws also now cover same-sex couples – “marital or relationship status” replaces “marital status” and “de facto partner” replaces “de facto spouse” to cover both opposite- and same-sex couples.
Consistent with these new protections, sexual harassment provisions state that a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status and marital or relationship status are all now circumstances which can be taken into account when considering whether or not a reasonable person “would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated”.
Further information on the changes is available at www.humanrights.gov.au/new-protection.