Addressing Harassment as Systemic Discrimination: Realising CEDAW’s Promise of Substantive Equality
Submission to Inquiry into the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021
7 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2021
Date Written: July 12, 2021
Harassment is endemic in Australian workplaces, alongside limited community understanding of either its gravity or its pervasiveness. Sexual and sex-based harassment are frequently (mis)understood as simply inappropriate behaviour rather than as part of a wider structural discrimination against women, thereby undermining its seriousness. In this submission to Australian Senate Education and Employment Committees, we focus on the proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act. We argue that they are not enough to recognise and address harassment as a form of systemic discrimination against women, nor to realise the broader promise of women’s rights and substantive equality as set out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW]. We argue that the scope of SDA should not be limited by “practicability” considerations or restricted to only certain areas or public life. We also recommend that proposed amendments under the Bill should explicitly recognise that the creation of a ‘sexually hostile’ environment at work or in other areas of public life, through sexually explicit material and pornography for example, is a form of harassment, and part of wider structural discrimination against women. Systemic and structural social harms, such as harassment and other forms of discrimination against women, require systemic and structural changes. They should not be addressed via piecemeal legislative amendments limited to certain areas of public life, such as workplaces. Our submission emphasises the importance of a holistic approach in addressing harassment as a systemic problem, as part of wider structural discrimination against women.
Keywords: Harassment, Discrimination, Feminist Thoery, Labour Law, Human Rights Law, Feminism, Gender Studies, Pornography, Discrimination Law, Equality, Sexualization, Objectification
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