The bench is sensitive

January 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm Leave a comment

Not much has been happening for us in the first week of the new year but signs are pointing to a busy year ahead. So here I am, wondering what to chat about when this pops up.

The Judiciary, like all government (and large corporates) agencies, undergo sensitivity and diversity training on a regular basis. Don’t pooh-pooh it till you’ve tried it – even I learn stuff at these workshops.

Titled Equality Before The Law Bench Book (PDF), it’s from and for the Western Australia bench.  It borrows from similar books in other states and uses surveys conducted by NGOs.  See chapter 12 for dealing with LGBTI folks, including interesting bits like this:

Half the men and two thirds of the women who had same-sex sexual experiences regarded themselves as heterosexual rather than homosexual. This illustrates that same-sex attraction and experience are more common in Australia than is indicated by the relatively few people reporting a homosexual, lesbian or bisexual identity.

and this:

The experience of being gay, lesbian or bisexual differs from the experiences of other groups who may be the subject of discrimination; people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual usually have a choice about publicly identifying themselves as such, unlike, for example, women or people with a mobility impairment. It appears that the harassment and discrimination gay, lesbian and bisexual people experience is directly proportional to their openness about their sexuality.

… GLBTI people sometimes adopt a practice of self-censorship, not being completely open or “out” about their sexuality. They may, for example, limit discussion of weekend activities and change the pronoun when referring to a partner, or never hold hands in public.

When a lesbian, gay man or bisexual person is giving evidence, particularly if that person has not “come out” as gay, lesbian or bisexual, it may appear that the witness is being evasive or selective when answering questions which deal with their personal lives and activities. The Supreme Court of Queensland’s Equal Treatment Benchbook comments that

Judges should be alert to questioning of witnesses with regard to their sexuality and be ready to restrict such questioning when unnecessary or irrelevant.

• The majority (87.6%) of the GLBTI sample had at some time avoided disclosure of their diverse sexuality, sex and gender.
• Fear of prejudice or discrimination caused gay, lesbian and bisexual people, at least sometimes, to modify their daily activities (65.9% of males and 68.8% of females).
• Of those participants who modified their daily activities in any way at all, the most common situations where this occurred was at work, in social settings, with family and in public. Behaviour modification in public was overwhelmingly the most common, with 73.6% of males and 71.2% of females reporting this.

The reasons why people choose their living arrangements can be complex and varied in any relationship, but some lesbians, gay men or bisexuals choose not to live with their partner through fear of public exposure, and some live together but do not identify as living in a same-sex relationship. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not as common as it once was.

Same-sex relationships do not have the same significance as heterosexual relationships — Each partner within a relationship (and any children associated with them), individually or together, determine the significance of the relationship. The significance of any relationship should not be judged by the sexual orientation of its members but how people in a
relationship treat each other.

And the simple glossary for transgendered, transsexual and intersexed terminology.  Ah, it’s great to see a judiciary dealing with real stuff.


Entry filed under: Legal, Queer. Tags: , , .

Starting anew Most useless machine

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Evecho’s newsy bits

News, updates and links from the lesbian and publishing ‘verse that interest me, my current projects, keeping up with authors and sharing musings on middle-class life, gourmet adventures and comparisons between East/West perspectives. My opinions will likely be linearly logical and gayly bent, as they tend to be.