A succinct message from Helen Szoke on sexuality

Aug 5, 2011

[SOURCE]

As Helen Szoke finishes up as the head of the Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, she leaves us with some sage words on sexuality:

For the first time in years, I believe that, as a society, we are poised to recognise the enormous harm we do to same-sex-attracted people when we dismiss, deny or simply refuse to recognise their sexuality.

This message is one that we must heed, otherwise we will increasingly realise the cost of ignoring it, measured in human suffering.

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IDAHO and the JCCV

May 17, 2011

Today, May 17 2011, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).  Many organisations and people go to great effort to acknowledge the occasion and take a stand against homophobic and transphobic intolerance in society.

Take for example the head of Victoria Police, Chief Commissioner Simon Overland.  He has a pretty supportive message.  Similarly, Dr Helen Szoke from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has an unambiguous message on inclusion.  Even Hilary Clinton and Jeremy Browne each had a message of support.

As I’ve previously mentioned, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria set up a reference group to investigate the issues affecting GLBT people in the Jewish community.  They’ve also made it pretty clear, via their messenger of intolerance Rabbi Chaim Rapoport (here and here), that GLBT people are not welcome as members of their organisation, despite JCCV President John Searle saying that “racism and prejudice in all its evil forms will not be tolerated.”

This week the JCCV published a number of media releases.  There was one on how they’re getting on well with the Catholic community,  another on working with Victoria Police on combatting anti-semitic hate crimes, yet another on working with people with disabilities, and lastly one on welfare organisations in the community (mind you, not one of them openly advertises services supporting GLBT people).

I had trouble finding the JCCV media release on how they’re supportive of initiatives that combat homophobic intolerance in the Jewish community in this week of IDAHO.  I tried to find one, but I just couldn’t see it.  I guess they had it all prepared, but didn’t manage to get it out in time.

Now I’ll just have to wait until next year’s IDAHO to see if the big bad JCCV bully has learnt a lesson from the wider community and has realised it’s time to stop creating the hate and intolerance and start fighting it.

And lastly a message to John Searle.  You talk about racism and prejudice in all its evil forms.  Take a look in the mirror mate.


Dr Helen Szoke’s address to the JCCV AGM

Dec 6, 2010

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.

and

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.

and

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.

and

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.


John Searle and the JCCV want full acceptance of homosexuality in the Jewish community

Dec 3, 2010

Yes, it’s true.  The JCCV, under the presidency of John Searle, want to work toward full acceptance of homosexuality in the Victorian Jewish community.  It’s been reported in the Australian Jewish News (Melbourne edition,) on page 9 (Dec 3 2010).

Praise for the JCCV
AJN STAFF

UNDERSTANDING and cooperation between faiths is key to promoting a better society, according to commissioner of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Helen Szoke.

Szoke made the comments as guest speaker at last week’s Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV) 3rd annual general meeting.

She explained the work of the commission, the importance of building a human rights culture, and law reforms planned for the near future.

Szoke also noted the similarities between her organisation and the JCCV, praising Victoria’s peak Jewish body for its efforts to stamp out hate crimes.

Changes to the JCCV executive included Matthew Lazerow and Helen Light joining, and Gerard Max stepping down.

With one year of his term remaining, president John Searle said he felt it appropriate to reflect on the JCCV’s achievements to date, as well as looking ahead to the next 12 months.

“In so doing, it is important to remember that five or 10 years ago, the JCCV was cash-strapped, not particularly well known and lacking in influence.

“Today, it is truly an influential body, capable or representing our community at all levels and whose input is sought by government, police, the media and many other bodies.”

Searle spoke highly of the Youth and Alcohol Project and thanks project office Debbie Zauder for her efforts.

He also made mention of the GLBT reference group formed by the JCCV, which is continuing to work towards combating discrimination, vilification and managing mental health issues.

You see, the only way that discrimination and vilification against GLBT people in the Jewish community, along with managing mental health issues in same-sex attracted people who don’t necessarily identify with the GLBT community (ie, they haven’t accepted their sexual orientation and may still reluctantly identify as heterosexual) will come about is when the JCCV work toward full acceptance of homosexuality in the Jewish community.  It’s a bit like being pregnant.  You either are or you aren’t.  There are no half measures in taking on these challenges.

Some more good news to share.  It’s now been 12 months since the JCCV formed their GLBT reference group and they have had a number of great successes as a result of this.  These include

  • making sure that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the Jewish community still don’t have a voice at the table in the community and effectively remain unrepresented by the JCCV
  • further alienating, excluding and isolating GLBT Jews
  • having nothing to show for all that has been done over the past 12 months
  • not speaking out against intolerance of homosexuality in the Jewish community
  • ignoring homophobic hate in the Jewish community
  • closing lines of communication with established GLBT networks in the Jewish community
  • not acknowledging that suicide amongst same-sex attracted youth is a major problem in Australia and is worst amongst religious communities intolerant of homosexuality

It really has been a great twelve months of success for the JCCV.  Let’s toast a l’chaim to the next twelve.

PS.  I’m still here waiting for you, when you’re ready to re-open the lines of communication John.  My number is on the contact page here.


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