Alternative Law Journal
Girlie is so excited by a proposal of the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, that she is prepared to sacrifice her senior appointment in a law firm to become a mum. She has al ready begun bonking away like mad hoping to get pregnant for the privilege of going on the dole! Ms Goward wants the federal government to allow all new mothers I2 weeks maternity leave. The women would not receive wages. In stead, Ms Goward has suggested, they should be paid at the rate of the unemployment benefit. She estimates there are three million women in the private employment sector who currently have no entitlement to paid maternity leave. She said it was unrealistic to expect employers to pay the costs of the leave and fears that to do so would further disadvantage women in the workplace by encouraging discriminatory practices against women of child-bearing age.
The all-Australian pastime of annihilating oneself with copious amounts of booze is under attack! The Australian Institute of Criminology in a study of alcohol-related assault using data from a I998 household survey estimates that people affected by alcohol assault more than I87,000 Australians each year. An additional 950,000 are verbally abused and 585,000 describe themselves as having been in fear of someone who has been drinking heavily. The actual number of assaults is likely to be much higher because of under reporting and because alcohol abuse is so prevalent and promoted in Australian society.
And as if there were not enough encroachments on Aussie male territory. Sheilas are now trying to muscle in on the sacred turf of Aussie Rules Foot ball. Debbie Lee has ambitions to be the first woman to play in any senior football league. The Western Region Foot ball League (WRFL), however, has different ideas. Even though Debbie Lee (nickname Diesel) has won all the top accolades in the Victorian Women's Football League, the WRFL will allow her only to play in the reserves. She could only play in the seniors game if the WRFL granted her a permit. They have refused to do so until 'a thorough investigation has been completed into women entering the competition', which they are undertaking as slowly as possible. A spokesman for the WRFL says, 'Women would have a major impact on the social standing of football, so we are not going to rush into it'.
In town for the Comedy Festival are the world famous Penis Puppeteers. Brett Hartin, 26, and Richard Sutherland, 30 (number refers to their age not length) made their debut in Melbourne in I998. Hartin was a footy player and Sutherland starred in Bum Puppets. Sutherland says, 'I guess it's a penchant for ex pressing yourself. From Bum Puppets I moved on to the other front parts'. The show features over 40 pieces of genital origami, which brings tears to the eyes of audiences -tears of shock and joy. Puppetry of the Penis has proved so popular that it has been granted an extension.
More alarming un-Australian behaviour has come to light with the federal government's admission that laws de signed to protect Australians from spying have not been successful and offer very little protection. The revelation came as part of an inquiry into the Tampa incident last year. The laws were supposed to protect Australians from being spied on by the Defence Signals Directorate and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. Both agencies are only supposed to spy on nasty old foreigners or on Australians overseas but it appears their activities have extended to Australians at home. The Intelligence Services Act has proved ineffective with Aussies being treated no better than aliens.
Even though there have been over 50% of female medical graduates in Australia for t e last ten years we remain grossly under-represented in the specialties. In urology, for example, only 6.8% of trainees are women, which is a piddlingly low number on anyone's estimate. In obstetrics and gynecology, a specialty not without relevance to women, only 21% of specialists are women. A male gynecologist was quoted in the Age newspaper as saying, 'most women would have no idea what their undercarriage looks like'. He's right and this is hardly surprising given that women rarely get a look in unless they have a particularly long neck and very short legs. In surgical training overall in 2001, I7.6% of trainees were women. In orthopedic surgery, in I997 only I% of specialists were women. With data like these there has to be a strong presumption that selection of specialist trainees can't simply be 'on merit'.
In the United Kingdom a woman paralysed from the neck down has won a landmark law case in being granted the wish to have her life ended. The 43-year-old social worker received the court decision by video link to her hospital bed. She is currently kept alive by a respiratory machine which doctors re fused to switch off, saying to do so would be unethical. The case is thought to be the first in which a person of sound mind has asked doctors to tum off the life support machine. High Court Judge Dame Elizabeth Buder-Sloss ruled that the woman had the necessary mental capacity to ask for the equipment to be turned off. The judge went further by finding that administration of ventilation against the woman's wishes since August 200 I has been an unlawful trespass. Assisted death and euthanasia is unlawful in Australia.
Helen is a Feminist Lawyer