Alternative Law Journal
During July there was an unholy row in Brisbane when The Anglican Church of Australia held its National General Synod. This ecclesiastical gathering made one thing clear, if not bright - significant division prevaileth on important social and doctrinal matters, especially where women's role in the Church is concerned. The Church, to its credit, has embarked upon the ordination of women but it took an eternity to do so and there has been a process of attrition with five of the 23 dioceses still refusing to ordain women priests. The Anglicans locked horns over what should have been a logical progression towards the ordination of women bishops with Church patriarchs fighting long and with much bitterness. Equity and justice for Anglican women remain elusive. Debate around the issue of gay and lesbian priests also stimulated some of the delegates for whom the idea of openly gay priests is too awful to contemplate. Gay priests are hardly a new phenomenon. Girlie remembers fondly several from her girlhood who were as camp as a row of tents. In the past, however, such things were not mentioned and some Anglicans would prefer things to stay the same. Gay priests are fine so long as they keep quiet about it. Revelations, it seems, should remain contained within the pages of The Bible.
Meanwhile Girlie became so fed up with the clerical stonewalling she asked herself, 'What use are bisho-pricks anyway?' The answer being in the negative Girlie decided to do it for herself. After all, we can perform DYO artificial insemination so why not self cannonisation? Girlie has consequently consecrated her own good self and emerged as St Girlie of the Alter LJ (or should that be Altar? There are a few details that need ironing out.) Girlie’s enhanced access to the Almighty gives her a Heaven-sent opportunity to protest directly about the dick-tatorial and paternalistic nature of decision making by the Beloved Deity (or deities) from whose decisions there is currently no right of appeal. For Girlie's divinely inspired human rights campaign to be a rip-roaring success she needs a cult following so keep those cards and letters rolling in. Bless you all. Ahwoman.
St Girlie is also considering the canonisation of Christine Nixon, Victoria's Chief Commissioner of Police who has not only declared her intention to strut her stuff, in uniform, at the next Gay Pride March but has said any officer who wants to join her is free to do so. This may seem rather mundane to Sydney Mardis Gras groupies but in wintery Melbourne folk are more sedate and the Gay Pride March is very much a family affair, more likely to feature smart casual wear than bum flatterers. Christine Nixon, of course, hails from Sydney and her fresh approach is welcome in our fog bound city. See you at the Gay Pride March in January 2002.
In Western Australia, sex has been high on the political agenda. Law reforms relating to prostitution and to sex discrimination against lesbians and gays have been the subject of special committee reports. Included on the committee membership were Labor's Louise Pratt and Green's MLC Giz Watson, both described as activists for gay and lesbian rights (Australian 23/7/2001). The committee reports include a recommendation that the age of consent for homosexual men should be lowered from 21 to 16. Other proposed reforms include IVF access for lesbians and non-discriminatory laws on property and superannuation. Less enlightened is the approach of Police Minister, Michelle Roberts, who has recommended moving brothels from residential areas to light industrial areas, banning of street walkers and the establishment of a Prostitution Contro.l Board to be supervised by the Health Minister.
The killing of a security guard at a Melbourne Clinic in July 2001 has re-kindled some familiar debates. The anti-abortion lobby wasted no time in making the most of the limelight with Margaret Tighe quoted as saying some people are likely to take the law into their own hands on such an emotional issue. This angered women's groups because anti-abortionists have been harassing women who were taking advantage of their legal right to choose to have an abortion. Letters to the Editors of major newspapers throughout the country have reminded readers of the terrible days when women were at the mercy of illegal back yard abortionists with all the related infection and other health sequelae. Some letters have asked what assistance, if any, Right to Lifers give to teenage pregnant girls, mothers who live in poverty and children who have been fostered or adopted.
An article in the Australian by Rosemary Neill drew sharp rebukes from pro-lifers who argued that abortions are performed on healthy women and healthy foetuses. They stressed the many risks associated with abortion but failed to mention the complications associated with pregnancy and giving birth. M.C. Riches of Balmoral, NSW (Australian 23/7/2001) was incensed enough to write about the Right to Lifers in the following terms:
Mind your own business. I see no difference between the treatment of women by the Taliban of Afghanistan and these sanctimonious hypocrites. Both groups camouflage their desired domination of women under the cloak of religion. Where have even a few of them offered to adopt the undesired offspring , if and when it arrives?
In the meantime, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja visited the clinic where the shooting occurred and denied politicising the debate. She said she wanted to remind prominent women of the important role they can play in promoting choice for women. The Senator's early morning visit to the clinic did not coincide with the perpetual vigil of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants who continue to hold their protests every morning. Senator Despoja gave verbal support and encouragement to clinic staff who, along with patients, have had to bear the abuse and harassment of the protesters. She also said, 'I am a pro-choice legislator and proud feminist and I'm angry that women who may attend that clinic are subject to harassment and intimidation'.
Chris is a Feminist Lawyer.