Every so often, an opportunity arises to stand on the right side of history. And so it is that I am pleased to affirm Oxfam’s support of Marriage Equality and to encourage Australians to vote YES in the planned postal survey on this issue.
For Oxfam, this is fundamentally a question of equality. When one part of our society is excluded from a right enjoyed by the rest, organisations like ours have a responsibility to speak up for justice and fairness for all. Every day, we see the damaging, multi-dimensional aspects of poverty including discrimination and exclusion play out in ways which isolate and silence. It is our role to stand in solidarity with those whose rights are being denied – to amplify their voices and to advocate for the recognition of their value, their dignity and the contributions they make to a rich and diverse society.
In Australia and around the world, marriage should be freely available to all – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Sexuality and gender identity are positive, core components of being human and experiencing wellbeing and fulfilment. And yet, when diversity of sexuality and gender identity are rendered invisible, or become the basis of discrimination, the rights to decisions over bodies, sexualities, identities and intimate consensual relations of one’s own choosing are violated.
Our legislative frameworks are part of what underpin any society’s values and behaviours. When we regulate in ways which exclude – we risk driving the acceptance of discriminatory attitudes and stigmatising sections of the population. In many places where Oxfam works, we see that discriminatory laws perpetuate cruelty, hate speech and even violence. This happens even in places where other kinds of extensive legal protections exist – even in Australia. When this occurs, it reduces us all and it’s why now, when we have an opportunity to demonstrate that we as a community are open and accepting and desire that all our citizens are able to exercise their full rights and responsibilities under the law, we should take the opportunity to stand together for equality. At this moment, the world is looking to Australia to make a firm stand for equality and human rights. People like Sku, a member of a group called VOVO that Oxfam supports in Zimbabwe that brings lesbian and gay women together in a safe space, told Oxfam that she sees the advent of marriage equality in countries around the world as positive; showing that the fight for equality can be won, even in places like Zimbabwe, where laws are still discriminatory. “It shows us that, yeah, you can fight for something and something can actually come out of it,” she explains. “So it’s a good thing, it’s showing us that as time goes on maybe things can change here in Zim too.”
Celebration and affirmation of sexual and gender diversity is key to the realization of broader human rights for every individual. As this postal survey and community discussion take place in the coming weeks, Oxfam urges all Australians to take this message to heart and vote YES for marriage equality.
Dr Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive