Dr Helen Szoke, Commissioner of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, was guest speaker at the AGM of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) on November 22, 2010.
The address that Dr Szoke delivered at the meeting, entitled “Protection against hate crimes in Victoria”, is on the JCCV site here, or alternatively, here.
I have highlighted below the sections of the address that refer to same-sex attracted people, sexual orientation and gender identity.
In your case, you have a specific community of interest. In my case, our community of interest is all Victorians, whether they be people with a disability, people with different religious beliefs, people who are same sex attracted, people who are old or young.
I would also say that race and religion is a particular area of focus. But our own work shows that all areas of discrimination can be the basis of prejudice motivated reaction, and to this end, we try as a Commission to keep a broad focus, looking at the work of people with a disability, age discrimination, the prejudice experienced by people who are same sex attracted, which forms the focus of our work in the sport area.
In our view, this would mean strengthening civil and criminal provisions protecting people from hate conduct. Such remedies are necessary because hate crime and hate conduct have a disproportionate impact on particular groups – groups characterized by race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, impairment or homelessness – and their ability to realise other human rights. Call it the domino effect of discrimination.
In short, we have recommended that this model include: … A provision in the Equal Opportunity Act prohibiting offensive, insulting, humiliating or intimidating conduct against people, or a group of people, not just based on race or religion, but also sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, impairment and homelessness …
My hope, as I’m sure is also Dr Szoke’s, is that the leaders of the Jewish community, including those present at the AGM, will want to work to remove all hate crimes and intolerance of difference in their Jewish community. It is going to be a gargantuan effort to see it realized in the short-term, but with the right message coming from the top, the way forward will be significantly easier.
It really isn’t difficult to understand that intolerance contributes to unhappiness, which in turn contributes to self-harm. Conversely, acceptance and inclusion leads to happiness and an increased feeling of self-worth and belonging.
I ask those people who decry homosexual behaviour because “it is forbidden by the Torah”, if they really care about the people in their community and ask them to consider whose best interests they have at heart.
A dead child is dead for a long time.