17 May 2022
Celebrating IDAHOBIT: International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia
By Nelson Tang
Hall & Wilcox and the international community celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) on 17 May each year. The day is a timely reminder to stand with lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and questioning (LGBTQIA+) people against discrimination. Corporates and legal practitioners play a significant role in advocating against the persecution of LGBTQIA+ people.
It was as recently as 17 May 1990 that representatives at the United Nations World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.
At the time, Australia was at the forefront of law reform for LGBTQIA+ people.
In 1992, an activist from the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, Nicholas Toonen, successfully brought a complaint to the UN’s Human Rights Committee, which led to the decriminalisation of laws against LGBTQIA+ people.
More recently, LGBTQIA+ people continue to face legal and non-legal challenges in Australia and internationally.
The Federal Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill allows religious schools to directly discriminate against LGBTQIA+ students on the basis of their gender or sexuality. The Bill was hotly debated in Parliament. It remains uncertain whether this Bill would be agreed to by a new parliament after this month’s federal election.
The COVID pandemic also brought on a unique set of challenges, particularly overseas.
In Uganda, homeless gender- and sexually-diverse people were imprisoned for up to two months on spurious charges of violating COVID curfew regulations. Stories of LGBTQIA+ people being forced out of family homes with nowhere to go were common.
In Panama, gender-based lockdown was implemented in response to the pandemic. Transgender people faced issues arising from the country’s lack of legal recognition for transitioned people. Transgender people would face questioning from security officials no matter which day they ventured out.
Besides discrimination through the law, LGBTQIA+ people also face non-legal discrimination.
Physical and online abuse remains prevalent, and prominent LGBTQIA+ people, including journalists Mark Reddie and Hamish Macdonald, have reported their experiences in the media – see 'I was assaulted after Mardi Gras — and I wasn't the only one' (by Mark Reddie) and Hamish MacDonald's account of what happened to him when he hosted Q&A.
Meanwhile, mental health indicators of LGBTQIA+ people have improved over the years, but they remain significantly worse than the general population.
According to the LGBTIQ+ Health Australia snapshot (October 2021), 64% of LGBTQIA+ young people aged 14 to 21 reported being diagnosed with a mental health condition.
What can we do to stand up against discrimination?
Showing support can be as simple as accepting LGBTQIA+ people for who they are, and being inclusive in the workplace and in general.
You can become an ally even if you do not identify as LGBTQIA+ by supporting inclusive policies.
Companies can take a further step by setting up their own pride committees to give LGBTQIA+ employees and their allies a voice.
The Hall & Wilcox Pride Committee allows all firm partners and employees to initiate and shape LGBTQIA+ firm policies and organise events.
Committee members also regularly attend interfirm events with our clients and other law firms, and show our commitment to inclusivity.
The Committee also promotes annual events such as Wear It Purple Day, Pride Month, and of course, IDAHOBIT day.
Taking action is simple, and the Hall & Wilcox Pride Committee would be happy to provide further assistance for firms interested in setting up their own pride committee.
Nelson Tang is a lawyer in the Statutory Insurance (NSW/ACT) team and a member of the Hall & Wilcox Pride Committee.