Things are looking dire for women in Queensland

Things are looking dire for women in Queensland

By Rachael Wong

Things are looking dire for women in Queensland.

This week, Queensland’s Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman (who is also the state’s Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence), took to social media to decry a sticker placed on a sign outside her office. The sticker included the word woman, and its definition: adult human female.


According to the Minister, “for some people in our community, these stickers represent much more – they represent a movement which discriminates against [transgender people] and denies their existence.”

“I want to be very clear – I don’t stand for these sort of views, our community doesn’t stand for these views, and Queenslanders don’t stand for these views,” added the Minister.

So, the Minister for Women ‘doesn’t stand for the definition of woman’, which, as the Minister for Women, she finds offensive?

It’s like we’re living in an alternate universe.

However, Fentiman is right about one thing. The stickers do represent much more. They represent the women and girls whose rights, safety and female-only spaces she’s sacrificing to self-ID laws. They represent the women who she’s ignored and disparaged as ‘transphobic’. And they represent the women and girls she’s failed as 'Minister for Women’.

Unsurprisingly, at least one journalist wrote a puff piece making a martyr of Fentiman, calling women’s advocates 'anti-trans' and tarring their comments about her position as ‘hateful’ and ‘vulgar’.

A couple of days after ‘sticker gate’, the Minister was asked by a journalist ‘what is a woman?’

Her response?

“Let’s be inclusive. Anyone that identifies as a woman is a woman...It's not one group advancing at the expense of another."

How does the Minister know someone is identifying as a woman if she can't define what a woman is? How can she represent women if she doesn’t know who they are?

And ‘one group advancing at the expense of another’ is exactly what Fentiman’s self-ID laws will achieve.

For the past six months, Women’s Forum Australia has been highlighting and opposing Fentiman’s harmful self-ID bill being pushed under the Queensland Labor Government (introduced in December last year).

The Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Bill will allow anyone to change their legal sex on their birth certificate and enable men to self-identify as women and access female-only activities, spaces and services, including sports, prisons, changing rooms and refuges. It also erodes safeguards for vulnerable children and puts at risk the freedom of speech and conscience of all Queenslanders.

Almost more concerning than the bill itself, has been the concerted effort to ignore and silence women and members of the community who oppose the legislation.

We have spoken about the bill in the media, written numerous articles (i.e. here, here and here), launched a petition opposing the bill which has garnered over 10,000 signatures and written a submission to the parliamentary inquiry.

We were also one of only a dozen groups/individuals invited to appear at the oral hearings at Queensland Parliament in January (Queensland women and women's groups were noticeably left uninvited from the hearings).

After the hearing, we followed up with further evidence about the harms of self-ID laws to women and girls prepared by our co-witness at the hearing, Giggle CEO Sall Grover, who is currently facing a human rights claim for refusing to allow a trans-identifying male to access her female-only app.

Sometime after the hearing, we learnt that the parliamentary committee had removed over 150 links to examples of harm from self-ID in our evidence uploaded online. When we questioned them about this, they told us it's their 'policy' to remove links as the content in the link 'can change over time'. However, they had not done this to anyone else. When we asked if we could see their policy on this, they declined. 

Despite the abundant evidence of harm resulting from self-ID provided by ourselves and others through written and oral submissions, in February, the committee considering the bill recommended that it be passed.

It is worth highlighting however, that the committee’s recommendation to pass the Bill was by no means unanimous. While the three Labor members supported their own party’s bill, the other three members (two Liberals and one Independent) included 'Statements of Reservation' highlighting the rushed consultation, and concerns regarding harms to women and children.

With debate on the bill imminent, we have also written to every member of parliament in Queensland, explaining our concerns, and asking them to vote against this harmful law.

As posts about ‘sticker gate’ and her inability to define a ‘woman’ have made their way around social media, Fentiman has gone on a blocking spree, blocking from Twitter and Facebook numerous women (and men) who disagree with her views.

Is this really the kind of behaviour expected from an elected representative? Absolutely not. But given Fentiman’s history of ignoring and deriding those who disagree with her, it’s hardly surprising.

In addition to self-ID laws, Fentiman is also championing hate speech laws and laws to deregulate prostitution and legitimise the sexual exploitation of women as 'work' throughout Queensland. These are harmful laws that all Queenslanders should be concerned about, but we know who will bear the brunt of them – women.

Shannon Fentiman has shown herself unfit to represent women. Having consistently advocated against their interests across multiple issues, one must ask whether this is because she really doesn’t know what a ‘woman’ is and therefore who she’s meant to be representing, or if she knows full well, and is choosing to leave women short. If she is unwilling to defend the needs of women and girls, she has no choice but to stand down as the Minister for Women.

Rachael Wong is the CEO of 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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