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

See all articles by Helen Pringle

Helen Pringle

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Monika Zalnieriute

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law & Justice

Sandra Amankaviciute

School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, UNSW Sydney

Date Written: July 12, 2021

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Pringle, Helen and Zalnieriute, Monika and Amankaviciute, Sandra, Addressing Harassment as Systemic Discrimination: Realising CEDAW’s Promise of Substantive Equality (July 12, 2021). Submission to Inquiry into the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3884875 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3884875

Helen Pringle (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) ( email )

Kensington
High St
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Monika Zalnieriute

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law & Justice ( email )

Sydney, New South Wales 2052
Australia

Sandra Amankaviciute

School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, UNSW Sydney ( email )

Morven Brown Building
UNSW, Kensington
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

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