WEL Statement Breaking News
‘Permission’ to Undermine Safe Access Zones: Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification Bill 2203(NSW)
WEL supports the NSW Government’s introduction of prohibitions on religious vilification in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act. We are conscious of the disproportionate impact of religious vilification on many people of diverse backgrounds, particularly Muslim women in religious dress.
We are shocked that the NSW Anti- Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification Bill) currently being debated in the NSW Parliament does not limit protected religious activity to ‘lawful’ religious activities. This means the Bill would allow complaints to be brought by individuals and organizations who allege they have been vilified for engaging in religious activity, despite that activity itself being unlawful.
The 2018 Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Act 2018 was a significant step forward for women’s right to access safe contraception and abortion care in NSW.
For example an individual or group could display signs condemning the murder of unborn children or silently pray in a safe access zone and claim protections against vilification by health personnel, pro-choice activists or critical on-line posts from women’s health advocates. ‘Test cases’ are likely from some religious groups who claim themselves as the victims of the decriminalisation of abortion.... in need of protection.
We also note expert legal opinion that the broad and loose definitions in the Bill could potentially enable organizations such as churches or even religious charities to claim protection. It seems that the NSW Government has ignored calls from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Lawyers for Human Rights and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties for the Bill to be amended to clarify that its provisions protect people as individuals or groups, rather than organizations.
WEL has written to the NSW Attorney General, Minister for Women, Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council and the Minister for Health. We asked that urgent amendments be made to the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification Bill 2203(NSW) Bill prior to its passage through the Legislative Council, or that the Bill be withdrawn pending the report of the Law Reform Commission on a Human Rights Act for NSW.
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