Defence clarifies: women are off the table

By Harley Dennett

Saturday September 23, 2017

  • Biological women need not fear their anti-discrimination protections will be stripped.
  • Defence issued a new statement walking back its original language.

Biological women who identify as women will not be a subject of the negotiations to exempt the Department of Defence from protections in the Sex Discrimination Act.

Rather, the department will focus solely on gender X according to a clarifying statement issued late Friday night.

The first statement from Defence, issued to the Australian newspaper on Thursday night, was uncharacteristically broad for a contentious issue like re-authorising discrimination. It was exploring an exemption to the Sex Discrimination Act.

Those who spoke with The Mandarin were dismayed at the loose language from an official departmental statement. Many were also concerned that discrimination would return after they saw as a hard fought battle to have it prohibited.

Defence sent media outlets a new statement late on Friday. It outlined that it had been actively considering its policy position on ADF personnel who are gender X:

“An essential part of this consideration is whether the ADF can practically ensure the welfare of individuals, meet its obligations regarding non-discrimination and achieve its military mission.

“Given the unique operational requirements of military service, the Government and Defence are currently considering the need for an exemption to the Act and the guidelines, as they apply to gender X only.”

Defence will be consulting the Attorney General’s Department and the Australian Human Rights Commission before determining its next course of action. It declined to be more specific what categories would be included in the discussions.

According to the Attorney General’s Department guidelines, gender X includes indeterminate, intersex or unspecified.

The department says it is offering “appropriate support” to those individuals concerned.

See also: Edward Santow: moving on from a corrosive culture of silence 

See also: What is gender X and why it matters to government and Defence

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