The recent addition is part of the state's growing list of protected attributes
Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act will now provide a shield against sex characteristic discrimination, with the state adding “sex characteristics” as a protected attribute.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) described “sex characteristic discrimination” as an instance wherein a person is being treated unfairly or bullied because of physical features related to their sex. Sex characteristics include “genitalia and other sexual and reproductive parts; chromosomes, genes, hormones, and secondary physical features that emerge as a result of puberty.”
Sex discrimination is experienced by people born with variations in sex characteristics or people with intersex variations. The commission defined people with intersex variations as those born with atypical natural variations to sex characteristics such as variations in chromosomes, hormones or anatomy.
“Intersex traits are a natural part of human bodily diversity,” the VEOHRC said in a media release.
The VEOHRC listed several examples of sex characteristic discrimination, such as when a health professional refuses to treat someone with an intersex variation because the person’s attributes make the health professional uncomfortable. Another example is when a sportsperson or student is not given access to a changeroom because their body is “too masculine” or “too feminine.”
The commission also highlighted discrimination at the workplace and the responsibility held by employers. Employers “have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible,” the VEOHRC said.
The commission also announced that the definitions of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” would be updated in the Equal Opportunity Act “to better reflect the lives and experiences of all Victorians.”
“Everyone is equal, and we should all be treated the same,” the VEOHRC said.