Sex Self-ID laws are incompatible with efforts to end violence against women

Sex Self-ID laws are incompatible with efforts to end violence against women

By Stephanie Bastiaan

In October 2022, the Federal Government and state and territory governments released the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032. 

The key objectives of the plan are prevention by tackling gender inequality, victim blaming and addressing societal attitudes that encourage violence; early intervention by expanding support services to individuals and families experiencing forms of violence; and response, which is ensuring front-line services are equipped with education to support victim-survivors and practical resources such as secure crisis accommodation and long term housing. 

Despite endorsing the National Plan, on the last parliamentary sitting day before Christmas, Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman, Minister for Women, Prevention of Family Violence and Justice, introduced the Births Deaths and Marriages Bill 2022, which, if passed, will amend state laws to permit individuals to legally change their sex without any form of medical evidence. 

Furthermore, it includes amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, which means self-identifying individuals cannot be discriminated against when accessing designated sex-based spaces such as domestic violence refuges, bathrooms or prisons. 

Sex ‘self-ID’ laws and policies, in force in other jurisdictions both in Australia and overseas, have resulted in preventable catastrophic outcomes for women and girls by men who exploit them and are utterly incompatible with efforts to end violence against women and children. 

In Victoria, a biological male rapist who self-identifies as a woman is now housed in a female prison. In the United Kingdom, a transgender patient raped another female patient in a single sex female hospital ward. In Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom, there are several cases where self-identifying transgender prisoners were housed in female prisons only to sexually assault and rape female inmates. In Canada, sexual predators have gained entry into female refuges.

According to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2022, 1 in 6 women experience physical or sexual violence, which is a primary reason women and children leave their homes to seek safety elsewhere. The Australian Bureau of Statics shows in 2022, Queensland recorded a 35% increase in reports of sexual assault, the largest increase in the country and that it also has the highest number of offenders prosecuted for breaching intervention orders.

The high rates of violence against women and children are our national shame. As Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Women, Ms Fentiman’s efforts should focus on tightening loopholes abused by misogynistic opportunists rather than introducing reckless and irresponsible legislation to assist them further. 

The purpose of the law is to maintain order and protect rights and liberties. Law does not affirm people’s ‘lived identity’ any more than it affirms one’s career or character. It seems Ms Fentiman is just another politician buckling to the pressure of transgender lobby groups with a complete disregard for the rights and safety of women and girls. 

Are we expected to believe our daughters will be safe sharing bathrooms with biological boys should any self-identify for access? Perhaps Ms Fentiman will introduce a new chapter into our gender-ideology-saturated Respectful Relations program to manage lad culture in this area. 

What impacts will this legislation have on healthcare for women, particularly maternity services? Will the Anti-Discrimination elements of this bill have a domino effect by legally enforcing female-insulting ‘inclusive’ language such as ‘birthing parents and chest-feeders’?

We will not know until the law is passed and tested. 

Ms Fentiman’s social media is littered with advocacy for women’s rights and ending violence against women and children. Still, it seems her leadership only extends to cutting ribbons at domestic violence shelter openings and posing for photos with community leaders. 

How many women and children need to be victims of self-ID laws before our legislators have the strength to push back against these dangerous experimental ideas? Ms Fentiman’s denial of evidence demonstrating the risks and refusal to engage with concerned women’s advocates shows she is not interested in public input, but rather she is on a mission to rush the legislation through without the checks and balances in place. 

The well-funded lobby groups pushing for these reforms have a disproportionate influence over our politicians and the media with the goal of silencing any opposition. 

These laws aren’t about inclusiveness or equality but about power and control. 

And it is women who are expected to sacrifice their rights in favour of men identifying as women. 

Stephanie Bastiaan is a Research Fellow with Women’s Forum Australia

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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