New article critiques ‘human rights’ basis for sterilising women and girls with disability

A new article by LIRC member Dr Linda Steele provides an in-depth analysis and critique of the 2013 report of the Australian Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee titled Inquiry into the Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation of People with Disability in Australia. Despite a number of submissions including those made by disability rights activists and Dr Steele arguing for the prohibition of sterilisation, the Senate Committee instead recommended the continuation of court-authorised sterilisation. The Senate Committee recommended replacing the ‘best interests’ test that presently guides judicial consideration for authorising sterilisation and replacing this with a ‘best protection’ of rights test. Dr Steele argues that this test and the continuation of court-authorised sterilisation is contrary to the 2008 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and results in the perverse outcome whereby the violent and discriminatory act of sterilising a woman or girl with disability can be the means for realising her human rights. Dr Steele argues that this approach to disability, violence and human rights only ‘makes sense’ when people with disability are legally constructed as ‘abnormal’ and hence so fundamentally different to people without disability as to ever be capable of comparison for the purposes of determining equality and non-discrimination. This then means they can be subjected to lower human rights thresholds that enable violence and discrimination where this would never be allowed or even comprehended for people without disability.

Please click here for a link to Dr Steel’s article.

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