Professor Beth Gaze is an academic at Melbourne University who specialises in areas such as anti-discrimination law and feminist legal theory. She teaches equality and discrimination law to JD and LLM students, and regularly speaks at conferences and seminars on issues in anti-discrimination law. In an article written for the legal journal Precedent, Prof. Gaze frames the issue of gender equality in the broader spectrum of human rights issues by making the point that the rights which specifically concern women are deemed less important because they are not regarded as ‘universal.’ This idea has a knock-on effect in that it propagates the sense that the issues important to mean are universal and thereby more important. Gaze identifies legislation that overlooks the inherent balance of power amongst the broader society, saying “Laws that focus only on protecting the right to speak, but fail to notice whose voices most benefit, overlook substantial aspects of women’s disadvantage and lack of power.”
Joan Lemaire is the senior Vice President of NSW Teacher’s Federation and has reported on advancements for equality since the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995, which she attended as the ACTU adviser to the Australian Government delegation. Lemaire’s article written for the Federation publication, Education, examines the effects and aftermath of the UN’s ‘Platform for Action’, speaking of a need to look at the relationships and attitudes that exist in society regarding gender equality. Lemaire quotes The UN Division of Women as saying “the concept of gender, recognising the entire structure of society and all relations between men and women within it had to be re-evaluated” which reinforces her own idea that to truly move towards equality, a restructuring of society and institutions is necessary.
Both of these authors suggest that the issue of gender equality is fundamentally linked to the attitudes and perceptions of society as a whole. In the first article, Gaze states that “Even where the law recognises rights, actually enjoying them needs more: it requires attitudinal change by everyone, but particularly by men.” Which appropriately summarises the position of both two articles in positioning the issue as one that requires a transformative approach.
Gaze, B. 2015, ‘Gender Equality: Do women enjoy human rights in Australia?’ Precedent, Issue 128, p.21-25
Lemaire, J. 2015, ‘Power and privilege: equity sticking points,’ Education, Vol.96(6), pp.14-15