People of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics (SOGIESC) continue to suffer in New Zealand from discrimination when it comes to basic human rights like access to quality healthcare, education and work.
They are the right to freedom from discrimination, information, recognition before the law, the highest attainable level of health, education and work.
“This report is entitled Prism. When light hits a prism, a rainbow can be seen. But a prism does not create colours; it reveals them. This paper provides a human rights lens through which to see people with a diverse SOGIESC,” says Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.
The report makes recommendations to policymakers on addressing issues raised through the Commission’s community consultations and research.
“While not exhaustive, our analysis reflects the voices of the SOGIESC-diverse people who attended the Human Rights Commission’s consultation hui in 2018,” says Hunt.
Public meetings took place in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. One hui was held in prison with transgender prisoners and a fifth hui was held with disabled SOGIESC-diverse people.
“Prism is an original contribution to the human rights landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is not common for these rights to be discussed with explicit regard to people with a diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics,” says Hunt.
These rights are enshrined in international covenants, conventions, and declarations. All people, including SOGIESC-diverse people, are entitled to the full enjoyment of these rights.
While sexuality diverse communities have had the benefit of rapid gains in social acceptance in Aotearoa New Zealand, the pace of change for those with diverse gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics has been much slower.
Obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights differ widely between various groups in SOGIESC-diverse communities depending on intersecting factors which may include ethnicity, age, disability, and geographic location, among others.
The negative impacts of colonisation on sexual and gender fluidity accepted in traditional Māori society have had, and continue to have, dramatic consequences, including loss of acceptance within their own societies and communities.
In keeping with the Commission’s statutory role to educate, advocate, and promote respect for Te Tiriti o Waitangi and human rights in New Zealand, Prism is designed to address this shortcoming. It emphasises the need for an interdisciplinary approach that blends law, policy, social work and community-led initiatives to enable the full enjoyment of human rights in Aotearoa New Zealand, regardless of a person’s SOGIESC.
“Significant change can be brought about through public policy, law reform, access to justice and administrative actions. With many international examples of good practice to benefit from, I urge the New Zealand government to work with local SOGIESC-diverse communities, organisations, individuals and the Human Rights Commission to address these issues in a principled and evidence-based way,” says Hunt.
An advisory group from the SOGIESC-diverse communities assisted in finalising the report, written by Taine Polkinghorne, the Commission’s SOGIESC advisor.