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Human Rights Commission:


Babette Francis, December 11, 2010

Australian Human Rights Commission president, the Hon. Catherine Branson QC, has been accused of polarising public opinion and insulting “the intelligence of half the electorate”.

These comments were made by the legal affairs editor of The Australian, Chris Merritt, in reference to an address Ms Branson recently made to an audience of lawyers, in which she encouraged “lawyers to become lobbyists for a political point of view”. (The Australian, November 19, 2010).

Merrit added that her provocative speech was reminiscent of her role during the debate on the charter of rights, and that, despite her status as a public officer, Branson became one of the chief advocates of a change that polarised opinion. These are not the only examples of provocation by Branson. Recently, during an AHRC community consultation, which I attended, on “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity”, Branson openly lobbied for federal legislation banning such discrimination. She implied that Australia was under some kind of commitment to pass such legislation because of the “Yogyakarta Principles”, which, she claimed, are an interpretation of already binding international agreements from the viewpoint of sexual orientation and gender identity.

I pointed out that the Yogyakarta Principles reflect only the views of a narrow group of self-identified “experts” and are not binding in international law. The principles have not been negotiated nor agreed to by member-states of the United Nations — indeed, not a single UN human rights treaty mentions sexual orientation, and repeated attempts to pass resolutions promoting broad homosexual rights have been repeatedly rejected by UN member-states.

Dr Branson probably did not expect that someone at the consultation would have attended as many UN meetings as I have. The Yogyakarta Principles, among other things, conflict with parental authority over minor children, and with freedom of speech, freedom of religion and national sovereignty.

A doctor of jurisprudence, Piero A. Tozzi, of the New York-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), has highlighted six problems with the Yogyakarta Principles, and these are summarised below:

Problem #1: The Yogyakarta Principles undermine parental and familial authority, assume that “children” are capable of identifying with a particular sexual orientation or gender identity, and that this will sometimes be opposed by families, requiring the intervention of state social services.

Problem #2: The principles undermine freedom of speech. In tandem with affirming the right of individuals, “regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity”, to engage in freedom of opinion, the principles call upon states to “ensure that the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression does not violate the rights and freedoms of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities”.

Problem #3: The principles undermine religious freedom. Under the guise of affirming “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity, religious liberty is undermined.

Problem #4: The principles undermine national sovereignty and national democratic institutions. The principles
obliquely call for a supra-national authority to “vigorously” investigate, prosecute, try and punish government officials who engage in “state-sponsored” or “state-condoned” attacks on persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, although it does not state what that authority might be or how it obtains jurisdiction over government officials.

Problem #5: The principles encourage (physically, psychologically and morally) unhealthy choices. Throughout the principles, behaviour is advocated as being a “good” when in fact it is more likely a “bad” for individuals who engage in such behaviour. For example, the principles posit surgical modification of “bodily appearance or function” as a good.

Problem #6: The principles fail to provide objective standards for evaluating conduct. The principles, by their own terms, are intended to be evolving and not grounded in currently accepted societal norms. The working group declares itself to be “The International Panel of Experts in International Human Rights Law and Sexual Orientation
and Gender Identity”, presuming that it possess authority to opine on the issues before it. It appears to be a self-selecting group, comprised primarily of activists. Dissenting voices among, for example, psychologists are not to be heard, and indeed any assertion that sexual orientation or gender identification is capable of being treated or cured is considered a form of “medical abuse” which must be proscribed.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s recent community consultation was held on behalf of the “LGBTIQ, i.e., Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex, Queer” community. I am not sure why the AHRC doesn’t include all the other letters of the alphabet, so that we could all be covered, including “U” for the unborn child.

Federal legislation banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity — the AHRC has (to date) identified 19 genders, in addition to the standard “male” and “female” — will be a marvellous gravy-train for the AHRC. Jobs in the commission are advertised as offering salaries in the $90,000-plus range.

Babette Francis is national co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., an NGO having special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC).



Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN