Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Brisbane domestic violence prevention champions honoured

Brisbane domestic violence prevention champions honoured

Sunnybank Hills, Coorparoo and New Farm-based initiatives have been recognised at a prestigious awards ceremony in Brisbane today for their efforts to reduce and prevent domestic and family violence.

Communities Minister Warren Pitt presented Sunnybank Hills' Kyabra Community Association with the Community Organisation Award, and Coorparoo Secondary College with the Government Award, at the 2007 Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Awards.

New Farm's Seniors Advice and Information Legal Service (SAILS) was presented with a highly commended certificate in the Community Organisation award category.

"The Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Awards have been presented to individuals, community groups, schools and organisations that have developed successful initiatives that help prevent domestic and family violence," Mr Pitt said.

"This is one way of honouring these dedicated people and the difference they are making in the lives of those affected by this form of abuse.

"It is important that those who speak out about domestic and family violence, who support victims and who promote the right to be safe in one's own home, are applauded and recognised.

The Kyabra Community Association has been honoured for Illumination, a publicly available women's narrative project.

"Kyabra's narrative drew on the knowledge, images, stories, art and responses of women who have been affected by domestic and family violence to create an information kit," Mr Pitt said.

"These very brave women reclaimed their lives and wanted to educate other women about the control tactics that can be used by a perpetrator."

The Illumination kit consists of a booklet and 24 cards that explain control tactics and corresponding responses.

Coorparoo Secondary College was presented with the Government Award for an awareness-raising project that educated young people and their parents about the prevalence of domestic and family violence, the repercussions of violence and alternative behaviours to violence.

"Students were engaged via a series of interesting activities, including t-shirt design and information sessions with guest speakers. Tip sheets were also provided to parents," Mr Pitt said.

SAILS, based in New Farm, was presented with a highly commended certificate in the Community Organisation awards category at today's ceremony.

"Elder abuse is a growing concern in Queensland," Mr Pitt said.

"Established by the Caxton Legal Centre in 2003, SAILS provides free legal advice, advocacy and social work support to people aged 60 or more who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, violence by family members or informal carers."

The Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Awards ceremony is one of the key events held during Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month in May.

Today's awards ceremony recognised six winners and five highly commended certificate recipients in six award categories: Individual, Partnership, Community Organisation, School-based Prevention Project, Government and Indigenous.

Mr Pitt said the award winners and other nominees were leading by example.

"They are excellent role models for the community," he said.

"Congratulations to all of the winners, and indeed to everyone who was nominated for an award. Their actions challenge all of us to take a stand against domestic and family violence."

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Adoptions US style

Landmark Lawsuit Protects California's Adoptive Children and Parents from Discrimination

(San Francisco, California, May 21, 2007) – Michael and Rich Butler, a San Jose couple, successfully resolved their landmark discrimination suit on Monday against the operators of the for-profit websites Adoption.com and ParentProfiles.com.

"This case was about ensuring that these businesses stop discriminating against same-sex couples in California by excluding them from offering loving, stable homes to children," said Michael Butler, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "We have succeeded, and we believe this case sends the message that Californians will not tolerate businesses that discriminate."

In 2004, the Butlers filed a lawsuit after defendants refused to post their profile online solely because they are a same-sex couple. The defendants' websites, Adoption.com and ParentProfiles.com, charge fees for posting profiles of potential adoptive parents. Using the websites, birth parents can search those profiles to choose potential adoptive parents for their children. On March 30, 2007, San Francisco federal district court judge Phyllis J. Hamilton issued a decision holding that California law applies to the Defendants and permitting the Butlers to take their case to trial.

According to the settlement, Adoption.com and ParentProfiles.com have agreed to either comply with California antidiscrimination law or cease providing their services to Californians. The agreement, provides that: "no Defendant shall Post Biographical Data of California residents seeking to adopt directed to prospective birth parents unless the Service is made equally available to all California residents qualified to adopt in California."

"We were forced to sue the defendants because they refused to follow California law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status," said Neel Chatterjee, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, who jointly represents the Butlers along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "This case sends a clear message. Regardless of where you are headquartered, if you want to do business in California, you must comply with California law. The defendants have conceded that they must either comply with California law or stop benefiting financially from California consumers. With this settlement, we have stopped a serious discriminatory practice."

According to Lynne Jacobs, the Executive Director of Adopt International, "I have been the director of a licensed adoption agency for 24 years. In my experience, many birth mothers choose same-sex couples to adopt their children. I have worked with same-sex adoptive families for years, and have seen first hand that sexual orientation has nothing to do with being good adoptive parents. Discrimination in the adoption industry hurts everyone."

In addition to its profiling service for parents seeking to adopt, Adoption.com lists profiles of foster children who need adoptive homes. As part of the settlement, the Defendants agreed that the Adoption.com photo listing of children in foster care waiting to be adopted does not discriminate and is available on an equal basis to anyone seeking to adopt.

Links to the (US) National Center for Lesbian Rights

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Getting sued for being uncut? Just a question of time...

It has long been the law that if you owe someone a duty of care, then it is necessary for you to take a reasonable standard of care towards the person to whom you owe the duty, and if you breach your duty, then you can be sued for your negligence.

It is only a matter of time before someone who is infected with HIV sues the man who transmitted it, if the man transmitting is uncircumcised. There has been a societal trend for some years amongst doctors not to perform "the chop" but that trend is now rejected by the UN.

If it is possible to prove that the man who was uncut knew that he should have been cut, or was reckless to being cut, and he transmits the disease, then he might be sued.

Similarly, if a man were cut, and was HIV positive, and engaged in unsafe sex because he was circumcised, and transmitted the disease, then he also could be sued.

Here is what the UN said:

WHO AND UNAIDS ANNOUNCE RECOMMENDATIONS
FROM EXPERT MEETING ON MALE CIRCUMCISION FOR
HIV PREVENTION
In response to the urgent need to reduce the number of new HIV
infections globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UNAIDS Secretariat
convened an international expert consultation to determine whether male circumcision
should be recommended for the prevention of HIV infection.Based on the evidence presented, which was considered to be compelling, experts attending the consultation recommended that male circumcision now be recognized as an additional important intervention to reduce the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men.
The international consultation, which was held from 6-8 March 2007 in Montreux,
Switzerland, was attended by participants representing a wide range of stakeholders,
including governments, civil society, researchers, human rights and women's health
advocates, young people, funding agencies and implementing partners."The recommendations represent a significant step forward in HIV prevention", said Dr Kevin De Cock, Director, HIV/AIDS Department, World Health Organization. "Countries with high rates of heterosexual HIV infection and low rates of male circumcision now have an additional intervention which can reduce the risk of HIV infection in heterosexual men. Scaling up male circumcision in such countries will result in immediate benefit to individuals. However, it will be a number of years before we can expect to see an impact on the epidemic from such investment."

There is now strong evidence from three randomized controlled trials undertaken in Kisumu,Kenya, Rakai District, Uganda and Orange Farm, South Africa that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%.This evidence supports the findings of numerous observational studies that have also suggested that the geographical correlation long described between lower HIV prevalence and high rates of male circumcision in some countries in Africa, and more recently elsewhere, is, at least in part, a causal association. Currently, an estimated 665 million men, or 30 % of men worldwide, are estimated to be circumcised. Male circumcision should always be considered as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package, which includes the provision of HIV testing and counselling services; treatment for sexually transmitted infections; the promotion of safer sex practices; and the provision of male and female condoms and promotion of their correct and consistent use. Counselling of men and their sexual partners is necessary to prevent them from developing a false sense of security and engaging in high-risk behaviours that could undermine the partial protection provided by male circumcision. Furthermore, male circumcision service provision was seen as a major opportunity to address the frequently neglected sexual health
needs of men. “Being able to recommend an additional HIV prevention method is a significant step towards getting ahead of this epidemic,” said Catherine Hankins, Associate Director, Department of Policy, Evidence and Partnerships at UNAIDS. “However, we must be clear: male circumcision does not provide complete protection against HIV. Men and women who consider male circumcision as an HIV preventive method must continue to use other forms of protection such as male and female condoms, delaying sexual debut and reducing the number of sexual partners.”
Health services need strengthening to provide quality services safely. Health services in many developing countries are weak and there is a shortage of skilled
health professionals. There is a need, therefore, to ensure that male circumcision services for HIV prevention do not unduly disrupt other health care programmes, including other HIV/AIDS interventions. In order to both maximize the opportunity afforded by male circumcision and ensure longer-term sustainability of services, male circumcision should, wherever possible, be integrated with other services.
The risks involved in male circumcision are generally low, but can be serious if circumcision is undertaken in unhygienic settings by poorly trained providers or with inadequate instruments. Wherever male circumcision services are offered, therefore, training and certification of providers, as well as careful monitoring and evaluation of programmes, will be necessary to ensure that these meet their objectives and that quality services are provided safely in sanitary settings, with adequate equipment and with appropriate counselling and other services.

Male circumcision has strong cultural connotations implying the need also to deliver services in a manner that is culturally sensitive and that minimizes any stigma that might be associated with circumcision status. Countries should ensure that male circumcision is provided with full adherence to medical ethics and human rights principles, including informed consent, confidentiality, and absence of coercion.
Maximizing the public health benefit. A significant public health impact is likely to occur most rapidly if male circumcision services are first provided where the incidence of heterosexually acquired HIV infection is high. It was therefore recommended that countries with high prevalence, generalized heterosexual
HIV epidemics that currently have low rates of male circumcision consider urgently scaling up access to male circumcision services. A more rapid public health benefit will be achieved if age groups at highest risk of acquiring HIV are prioritized, although providing male circumcision services to younger age groups will also have public health impact over the longer term. Modeling studies suggest that male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent 5.7 million new cases of HIV infection and 3 million deaths over 20 years. Experts at the meeting agreed that the cost-effectiveness of male circumcision is acceptable for an HIV prevention measure and that, in view of the large potential public health benefit of expanding male circumcision services, countries should also consider providing the services free of charge or at the lowest possible cost to the client, as for other essential services.
In countries where the HIV epidemic is concentrated in specific population groups such as sex workers, injecting drug users or men who have sex with men, there would be limited public health impact from promoting male circumcision in the general population. However, there may be an individual benefit for men at high risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection. More research needed to further inform programme development Experts at the meeting identified a number of areas where additional research is required to inform the further development of male circumcision programmes. These included the impact of male circumcision on sexual transmission from HIV-infected men to women, the impact of male circumcision on the health of women for reasons other than HIV transmission (e.g. lessened rates of cancer of the cervix), the risks and benefits of male circumcision for
HIV-positive men, the protective benefit of male circumcision in the case of insertive partners engaging in homosexual or heterosexual anal intercourse, and research into the resources needed for, and most effective ways, to expand quality male circumcision services. Research to determine whether there are modifications in perceptions and HIV risk behaviour over the longer term in men who are circumcised for HIV prevention, and in their communities, will also be essential.

Vic Anti-Discrimination Chief welcomes changes

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission welcomed State government moves to put same-sex relationships on the agenda.

Commission Chief Executive Officer, Dr Helen Szoke said the State Government's announcement that it would investigate a relationships register for same-sex couples was "a critical step in reducing discrimination in practice but Federal laws are standing in the way of true equality for gay and lesbian couples across Australia who have to contend with partial social acceptance and limited legal protection."

"The State Government's proposal to investigate a register for Victoria represents another hurdle cleared in ending discrimination," she added.

"While the relationship register gives couples a certificate which will allow them to better navigate and negotiate processes and systems, the reality is while gay and lesbian couples are more equal today, they are still not equal enough."

The Federal government is responsible for areas such as life insurance and superannuation laws but federal law make no provision for a registered domestic partner, referring only to a "spouse" or a "dependent".

The "announcement underscored the State government's commitment to the pursuit of equality before the law but Victoria is still lagging behind Tasmania and the ACT who have adopted formal opt-in models of recognition such as a civil union scheme that would establish a legal relationship between the partners".

"This further emphasises the need federally for the broader recognition of same-sex couples, more protection from discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, and greater recognition and implementation of Australia?s international human rights obligation in the form of an Australian Bill of Rights".

"While in Victoria, the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities will provide significant protection for same-sex couples in respect of future legislative reforms, government actions and policies affecting rights and lives in Victoria, it cannot protect same-sex couples from discriminatory Commonwealth laws and reforms." she said.

Same-sex couples recognised in SA

New laws come into effect in South Australia on 1 June 2007. These laws will give legal rights and duties to same-sex couples in areas like property ownership, wills, next-of-kin, and disclosure of interest.

The law applies to same-sex couples who live together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis for 3 years or more.

The South Australian Attorney-General's Factsheet:

Fact Sheet - Domestic Partners

A new law recognising the rights of domestic partners in South Australia has recently passed the Parliament and will take effect on 1 June, 2007.
The law gives new legal rights and duties both to same-sex de facto partners and also to other partners who may not be in a sexual relationship but live together on a genuine domestic basis as a couple.
Legal rights and duties arise if the partners have been living together in this way for three years or more.


• Who is affected by the new law?

The new law covers any two adults who live together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis, whether they are related or not, if the living arrangement endures for at least three years.
It thus covers people who live in an opposite-sex de facto relationship, those who live in a same-sex de facto relationship and those who live together as close companions or life partners.
That is, it covers all unmarried couples who meet the requirements.
The two people must have a close personal relationship: the new law does not catch people who are simply flatmates. It does not catch boarding arrangements. It does not catch commercial arrangements, such as a live-in housekeeper or paid carer.
A typical example of a relationship to which the law applies could be two single women who set up home together and share their lives in a similar way to a couple, in a relationship of mutual affection and support, even though they are not in a sexual or romantic relationship.


• How can I tell if my living arrangement is recognised by the new law?

In case of dispute, it is up to the courts to decide whether a living arrangement is or is not a domestic partnership. The court will have to assess whether you are genuinely a couple, using a list of factors.
Things to be considered are:

• how long you have been living together in the relationship: legal recognition occurs after three years of sharing your home as life partners.
• whether you both share the whole of the home in common or whether each of you has separate areas: having separate living quarters under one roof may suggest that you are not really a couple.
• does either of you financially support the other, wholly or partly? do you keep your money separate or do you pool it?
• do you own property separately or do you share it or own things jointly - for example, is the house in joint names? do you have other property to which you have both contributed or which is in both names?
• are you each committed to a shared life?
• are you raising children or providing care for children together, or have you done so in the past?
• do you each do your own housework or do you share it or carry out household tasks for each other?
• the reputation and public aspects of your relationship - for example, do your friends think of you as a couple? do you socialise together or separately?

Another factor is whether you have made a domestic partnership agreement under the Domestic Partners Property Act (see below). That will tend to suggest that you are domestic partners.
None of these factors on its own is decisive and it does not matter if they are not all present. The more of them apply, however, the easier it will be for the court to conclude that you are genuinely living together as a couple.
In many cases it will be obvious that the two people are a couple and no court order will be needed, but there are a few situations where a court order is legally required.


• Enduring Power of Attorney, Enduring Power of Guardian & Wills

The new law does not prevent partners from making other arrangements giving each other legal powers and it could still be useful to do so.
For example, an enduring power of attorney can be used to give your partner authority to handle your money and property in case you become incapacitated. That does not happen automatically just because you are domestic partners.
Likewise, an enduring power of guardianship can enable your partner to make lifestyle decisions for you in that situation: your domestic partner is not your legal guardian unless formally appointed by you or by the authorities.
You can also use a medical power of attorney to appoint your partner to make medical treatment decisions for you when you cannot. The absence of such a power will not stop your partner from being able to make these decisions, but having the power can avoid any doubt or delay.
Likewise, it is sensible for every adult to have a current will that says how you want your property shared out on your death.


• When does the three years start?

The new law applies to existing couples as well as to people who start living together in the future. That means that the time you have already lived together before the law changed counts towards the three years. So, if you have already lived together as a couple for three years or more when the new law begins, then you are covered immediately. If you have been living together as a couple for two years when the new law starts, you will be covered by the new law after a further year, if you are still living together as a couple then.


• What does the new law do?

The new law gives legal rights and duties to domestic partners. These legal rights and duties can affect your property. For example:
• if one of you dies without having made a will, and you had continued to live together up till the date of your death, the other one will be able to inherit some or all of the estate and can apply to be appointed administrator.
• if one of you makes a will that cuts out the other, then upon that person's death, if you are still living together as domestic partners, the other person may be able to take court action for a share of the estate.
• if the relationship breaks down at any time after three years of living together, and you separate, either of you can ask for court orders allocating a share of the other person's property to you, based on your financial and non-financial contributions during the relationship. How much you might be entitled to is up to the court.
• if one of you is killed in a road accident caused by a negligent driver, or in a work accident, or by homicide, the other one may be entitled to claim compensation.

The new laws will treat you as a couple for some legal purposes, for example:
• if you transfer your shared home from one partner's name to the other or into both names, you will not pay stamp duty.
• if either one of you is appointed to a statutory board or council, then for the purposes of declaring conflicts of interests, you must declare not only your own interests but those of your partner.
• if either of you is elected to your local council or to Parliament, the financial interests of the other one will need to be disclosed on the register of interests.

The new laws will also treat you as your partner's next of kin in some situations, for example:
• if one of you needs medical treatment but cannot give consent because of incapacity, the other person will be able to give consent.
• if one of you becomes mentally incapacitated, the other one will be able to apply to be appointed that person's legal guardian or appointed to administer the person's property, or both, if you have not already provided for this as above.
• if one partner dies, the other one will be able to make decisions about organ donation, post-mortem examination and cremation of the body.
• What if a dispute arises about whether we are really domestic partners?

If there is a dispute, the court will decide whether the law applies to your situation. Either one of you, or someone else whose legal rights are affected, can ask the court to decide.
• Can we clarify matters using a legal agreement?
Yes. You can make a written agreement (called a 'domestic partnership agreement') about your living arrangements, including your property. For example, the agreement could say what is to happen to the property you each own if the relationship ends and you separate. The agreement is like a contract so it can be enforced in court. However, if the court thinks the agreement is unjust, it can override it. If both of you want to prevent the court from overriding your agreement, you can arrange to have it certified by a lawyer.
An agreement can be made at any time, including when you are about to start living together, and it is legal from the time it is made, but you will still have to live together for three years before you are legally recognised as domestic partners: the agreement on its own does not achieve that.


• What if I don't want these new laws to apply to my living arrangements?

You should seek legal advice as soon as possible. You can modify some of the results of the new law using legal steps such as a will, power of guardianship and domestic partnership agreement. However, you need legal advice about what you can achieve and what legal steps you need to take. Do not delay in seeking this advice.


• Legal advice is available from:
Legal Services Commission ph 1300 366 424
The Law Society's Advisory Service ph 8229 0222
Your local community legal centre See White Pages
A private legal practitioner See White Pages or use the Law
Society's referral service