20 Jun 2020

Rainbow communities human rights report targets six failures in New Zealand

11:50 am on 20 June 2020

Omissions in the Human Rights Act and lack of official data is preventing access to basic rights for many in rainbow communities, a Human Rights Commisssion report has found.

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Photo: Human Rights Commission

The Prism report analyses the results of hui with people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, and makes recommendations to policymakers.

It identified six human rights that needed addressing for people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.

They are:

  • The right to freedom from discrimination
  • The right to information
  • The right to recognition before the law
  • The right to the highest attainable level of health
  • The right to education
  • The right to work

"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. These rights are enshrined in international covenants, conventions, and declarations," the report said.

"All people, including SOGIESC diverse people, are entitled to the full enjoyment of these rights."

It raises issues such as unsafe work and school environments, and difficulty correcting birth certificates.

The report's author Taine Polkinghorne said some members of the rainbow community were not experiencing the same rapid gains in social acceptance as lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

He said this was particularly severe among those who also belonged to another marginalised group.

"Whether it's a person from the rainbow communities who also has a disability or a person from rainbow communities who is tangata whenua, who a takatāpui perhaps ... this is really clearly reflected in the outcomes in terms of health in particular."

One key proposal from the report was for the Human Rights Act to be more inclusive, he said.

"While it prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation, it doesn't specifically protect transgender and intersex people from discrimination.

"This has been an issue that has been identified for many, many years."

Polkinghorne said amending the Act would help bridge the gap that was stopping some rainbow people from gaining basic rights, such as access to quality healthcare and education.

However, not enough information was being collected from or about these communities in New Zealand.

"This is really significant because you can't prove that a problem exists if there is no data to back you up. Human rights cannot be monitored without data."

The report makes 31 recommendations for resolving the six disparities in human rights for people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

Parliamentary Undersecretary to the Justice Minister Jan Logie.

Green Party Rainbow Issues spokesperson Jan Logie Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

Green Party Rainbow Issues spokesperson Jan Logie said more progress was needed to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, takatāpui, intersex and other rainbow people could live freely, and called for the creation of a government office focusing on LGBTQ+ issues.

"I feel very strongly that we can't continue to fail our rainbow communities. We have to make mroe progress to ensure that everyone is safe and able to live as who they are."

Read the full report from the Human Rights Commission: