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AUSTRALIA: Sydney women-only ocean pool under fire over transgender policy

Social media users criticise the exclusion of some trans women at McIver’s Ladies Baths, forcing a change of policy wording.

 

By Helen Sullivan

 

The Guardian (12.01.2021) – https://bit.ly/38CGwMy – A women-only ocean pool in Sydney’s eastern suburbs has come under fire over a policy that excluded transgender women who had not had surgical intervention.

 

The McIver’s Ladies Baths’ policy on transgender women, published on the FAQ section of its website, has been changed twice since attention was drawn to it on Monday afternoon.

 

Under the question “Are transgender women allowed?” the website’s response on Monday read: “Only transgender women who’ve undergone gender reassignment surgery are allowed entry. Please contact us for further information if required.”

 

After social media users questioned the policy and called for swimmers to contact Randwick council, the Randwick & Coogee Ladies Swimming Association changed the website to read: “McIver’s Ladies Baths has an exemption under the Anti-Discrimination Act awarded in 1995.

 

“Only women and children (boys up to 13 years of age) are permitted entry. If you wish to make any further inquiries please contact the Randwick city council.”

 

The 1995 exemption, which allows the baths to be a women-only space, was made “indefinite” in 2018.

 

On Monday afternoon a post on the McIver’s Facebook page quoted the 1995 exemption and called for people to direct “any information regarding transgender people needs” to Randwick council.

 

Below the post was a fierce debate of more than 3,000 comments from a mix of people who support allowing transgender women into the baths and those who do not. The Facebook post has since been taken down.

 

This is not the first time that women-only swimming spots have faced backlash over allowing or not allowing trans women to use their spaces. In 2019, London’s Hampstead Heath ladies’ pond formalised the rights of transgender women to use the pool after intense debate and protests by a radical feminist group.

 

On Tuesday morning, after staff at Randwick council requested that the website wording be changed again, the McIver’s FAQ response was modified to say: “Yes. Transgender women are welcome to the McIver’s Ladies Baths, our definition for transgender is as per the NSW Discrimination Act.”

 

A spokesperson for Randwick council confirmed in an email to Guardian Australia that the council had requested the change “to reflect [the baths’] actual policy position more accurately.”

 

A statement from the council on Tuesday afternoon said: “Randwick council is an inclusive organisation that values diversity in our community, and have always supported the inclusion of transgender women at McIver’s Ladies Baths.” The statement reiterated that the R&CLSA, which sub-leases the baths from the council, “are ultimately responsible for management and entry to the baths”.

 

“It is our understanding the association has always had a policy of inclusion and we have been in contact with the management of the baths to ask them to more accurately communicate this inclusive position on the issue on their website,” the statement said.

 

While the NSW anti-discrimination law defines trans women as all trans people who live or seek to live as women, the law recognises only some transgender people as legally being the gender they identify with, according to Newcastle University. There is a different definition under the law for “recognised” transgender people, who are required to have had “sex affirmation surgery”. The Australian Human Rights Commission has criticised this system, and recommended that individuals be allowed to decide their own gender identities without needing surgery.

 

It is unclear from the latest FAQ response on the McIver’s website whether the definition of trans women “as per the NSW discrimination act” refers to the specific definition of “recognised” trans women, or whether it refers to all trans women. In other words, all trans people who live or seek to live as women.

 

If it refers to “recognised” trans women, the current FAQ response would have the same meaning as the first response, allowing “only transgender women who’ve undergone gender reassignment surgery” to enter the baths.

 

Liam Elphick, a discrimination expert and associate lecturer in Monash University’s law faculty, said that if the latest policy was referring to the latter definition, it offered “strong protection for trans women who identify as trans women,” who should, under the law, need to demonstrate only that they live or intend to live as a woman – rather than needing to provide documentation – but that it was “far less strong” for those with non-binary gender identities.

 

“We have discrimination laws all throughout the country,” he said, “and organisations should act not just in accordance with those laws, but as best as possible in the spirit of those laws. And those laws require that we do not discriminate in the provision of goods and services against transgender people.”

 

Equality Australia’s CEO, Anna Brown, told the Guardian: “All Australians should be treated equally and allowed to live with dignity as who they are. No woman, whether trans or not, should be forced to reveal any part of her body as a condition for accessing public facilities.” She said the NSW law was out of date, and “should be updated to remove confusion and bring it into line with more contemporary anti-discrimination acts in other states and federally”.

 

She also noted that the stigma faced by trans women often leads them to exclude themselves from health and fitness activities.

 

It is unclear how the policy will be enforced. Entry to the baths is permitted by a group of volunteers at busy times, and at other times swimmers throw a $2.50 payment into a box before entering.

 

The Randwick & Coogee Ladies Swimming Association could not be reached for comment.

Photo: McIver’s Ladies Baths at South Coogee. The pool’s policy on transgender women, published on the FAQ section of its website, has been changed since attention was drawn to it. Credit: Carly Earl/The Guardian.





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TANZANIA: Australian women’s rights activist faces charges

Supporters says charges against Zara Kay, who has had her passport confiscated, are ‘politically motivated’.

 

By Daniel Hurst

 

The Guardian (03.01.2021) – https://bit.ly/393rFK8 – An Australian ex-Muslim women’s rights activist faces “politically motivated” charges in Tanzania, including for a tweet allegedly critical of the country’s president, according to her supporters.

 

The Australian government is providing consular assistance to Zara Kay, 28, the founder of Faithless Hijabi, a group set up two years ago to support women who are ostracised or face violence if they leave or question Islam.

 

Kay tweeted on 28 December she was “going into the police station because someone reported me in for blasphemy” and a few days later told her supporters she was out on bail but “still quite traumatised from everything”.

 

“Please don’t stop fighting for me,” she wrote. “They can try shaking me, but they won’t break me.”

 

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Sunday it was “providing consular assistance to an Australian in Tanzania”. But a spokesperson said Dfat would not provide further comment “owing to our privacy obligations”.

 

The case was first reported by the ABC on Sunday.

 

The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims issued a statement saying Kay had been held in police custody for 32 hours from 28 December “without an initial clear indication of charges” and had her passport confiscated.

 

It said she would be required to return the police station in Dar es Salaam, the administrative capital, on Tuesday.

 

According to the statement, the charges relate to three issues, including “a social media post deemed to be critical of the president of Tanzania” over the handling of Covid-19 in the east African country.

 

The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims said Kay was also accused of not returning her Tanzanian passport after gaining Australian citizenship, but added that “she never returned her Tanzanian passport as she misplaced and never used it after gaining Australian citizenship”.

 

The coalition said the final issue was the use of a mobile sim card registered in a family member’s name rather than her own name, under legislation that the group said “has been used to persecute other high-profile cases”.

 

“We believe these charges are politically motivated,” the coalition said.

 

“The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims reiterates its call on the Tanzanian government to immediately drop all the charges against Zara Kay and allow her to leave the country … We also call on the Australian authorities to intervene and get Zara home to safety.”

 

Kay, who was raised a Shia Muslim in Tanzania, told the Australian newspaper in 2019 that she had been forced to wear the hijab from the age of eight but took it off when she moved to Australia to study in her late teens.

 

She has renounced Islam and campaigns to help people who struggle when they similarly leave the faith. Kay has held speaking events in Australia on the topic: “Losing your religion can be hard, and for some, it can be fatal”.

 

Christians comprise about 61% of Tanzania’s population of 59 million people, while Muslims represent about 35%, according to past estimates, and it does not have blasphemy laws. The Australian newspaper reports that Kay faces sedition charges.

 

It is understood the types of assistance provided by Australian consular staff can include visiting prisons to monitor welfare, checking with local authorities about the Australian’s wellbeing, and providing contact details for local lawyers.

 

But consular staff typically notify Australians in trouble overseas that they cannot provide direct legal advice, intervene in legal cases or get Australians out of prison.

Photo: Dfat is giving consular assistance to Zara Kay, an Australian women’s rights activist in Tanzania. Her supporters say she is facing three charges, including one relating to a social media post allegedly critical of the president. Credit: CEMB.





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Homophobia drastically reduced at Australian clubs taking part in pride games

Researchers say a study’s findings are ‘unusual’ as most prejudice reduction initiatives fail or have little impact.

 

By Mike Hytner

 

The Guardian (26.08.2020) – https://bit.ly/3bilsKO – The use of homophobic language is drastically reduced at sporting clubs which engage in pride games, new research has revealed, proving diversity-themed events can have a positive impact.

 

The research, led by Australia’s Monash University, is the first academic study to investigate if such themed games or rounds, which aim to address a range of social issues including homophobia, racism and respect for women, can help stop discriminatory behaviours in male sport.

 

The study focused on the Australian Ice Hockey League and found players in teams that hold pride games use nearly 40% less homophobic language than those in teams that have not held games. A subsequent, larger study that included community cricket, netball, Australian rules football, field hockey, and roller derby reported nearly identical results.

 

“These findings are very unusual,” Erik Denison, the lead author of the study, said. “Most prejudice reduction interventions fail or have little impact on attitudes and very few have been shown to change behaviours.”

 

Slurs such as “fag” were found to be far less prevalent in the two semi-professional AIHL teams involved in pride initiatives than in the other six, after players self-reported for a period of two weeks.

 

“Holding pride games does not stop discriminatory behaviours but the games seem to mitigate the frequency of homophobic and sexist language used by players on teams that host the events,” Denison said.

 

“We believe combining pride games with better communication about why language is harmful to LGBT people is key to stopping this behaviour.” But Denison admitted the researchers were not sure why these games had not helped to change the behaviour of others exposed to the games, such as the visiting team.

 

Diversity-themed games have become commonplace across a range of sports throughout the world since the NHL’s Florida Panthers pioneered the idea in 2013. Pride initiatives are now seen regularly in leagues across the globe, from the NBA and NFL in the US, to the AFL in Australia and the Premier League in the UK.

 

But a lack of research into – and conclusive evidence of – the effectiveness of such initiatives remains a barrier for some sports administrators, who may legitimately want to do the right thing but do not want to be accused of “virtue signalling” or being “politically correct”.

 

The research, which was supported by the Australian government, Salesforce, You Can Play and Amnesty International, aimed to address that need for evidence and prove for the first time that diversity campaigns actually help to drive change to discriminatory behaviour and make sports more welcoming for LGBTI people.

 

Melbourne Mustangs ice hockey player Maxime Langelier-Parent, who took part in the study, said the use of homophobic language in his sport starts early, becomes habitual and is then passed on to the next generation of players.

 

“It is a vicious cycle,” Langelier-Parent said. “In hockey culture and other male sports there is also a strong pressure on players to conform to the team and those who don’t conform or deviate are often excluded. I think this is why it’s so hard to make these environments inclusive for LGBT people because being different isn’t seen to be positive.

 

“[Pride games] give us an opportunity to talk about the need to be inclusive and challenge the stereotypes around being a man.”

 

Another ice hockey player, Kade Matthews of the Southern Lights, said: “Most LGBT hockey players either ignore or just accept the language they hear being used, but it can cut deep and definitely sends the message that people don’t like gay people.

 

“As more people are willing to speak up against the language and how it affects them, there will be pressure to change the culture as a whole, resulting in better health outcomes for all players, including juniors.”

 

Previous research has found most discriminatory language in sport typically is not meant with malice or ill intent, but Denison underlined the importance of understanding exactly how a diversity-themed game can drive change to this kind of behaviour.

 

“For pride games, our working theory is that communications around the game, getting players to wear a special uniform, putting rainbows up everywhere in a stadium, making announcements, meeting LGBTQ+ athletes creates a ‘window of cognitive opportunity’ to short-circuit this normally thoughtless language,” he said.

 

“One of our study participants described this very clearly. In an interview, he told us he used a homophobic slur during a pride game and said it was like swearing in front of his grandmother. Being part of the pride game made him notice the language he was using without any thought. He said he tried hard to stop using this language after the game.”


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