Alternative Law Journal
Geoffrey Bloom is no pansy when it comes to women's rights. According to the British Member of the European Parliament, 'no small businessman with a brain' would give a woman of childbearing age a job (Herald Sun, Melbourne, 22 July 2004). An opponent of paid maternity leave, Bloom considers most women do not do enough cooking and cleaning especially comp red with Yorkshire women who always have the dinner ready when their husbands come home. The comments came just hours after he had been chosen by his Party to serve on the El.1ropean Parliament's Committee on women's rights. A member of the UK Independence Party, Bloom said he wanted to be on the Committee because, 'I just don't think they clean behind the fridge enough'. Other enlightened quotes from Bloom include, I am here to represent men. Yorkshire women always have dinner on the table when you get home. I am going to promote men's rights', and, 'If you want to have a baby you hand in your resignation and free up a job for another young lady.' And here's a quote from Girlie, 'Get plucked Bloom!'
Farewell to Dianne Sisely, Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunity Commission, Victoria. After ten years as Chief Executive and Chief Conciliator Di left the Commission on 30 June 2004. She was appointed in July 1994 and highlights of her time at the Commission 1nclude the inquiry into discrimination against same sex couples in 1998 and the implementation of its major recommendations in 2001, her address to the 60,000 peopl€1 who marched against racism in December 1998 and her support for those promoting reconciliation.
A Bordeaux court has annulled France's first gay marriage. The court ruled that the marriage was null and void because the traditional function of marriage is commonly considered to be the founding of a family'. Hey! Girlie is married but has no children. Does this make her marriage to a bloke invalid? Lawyers for the French couple have said they will appeal to the Supreme Court and the European Court if necessary.
Girlie has fond memories of one of the Pope's pontificating Encylclicals written in the 1980s. The Encyclical annoyed many women, not the least of whom was Girlie's old mate and battler for social justice, Edith Morgan. Edith was losing her sight at the time and Girlie took her for dinner at a colleague's house in the Burbs. The house turned out to be the antithesis of Girlie's housekeeping skills being completely spotless. We were given a tour and in every room there were Holy Pictures. During the meal Edith freely vented her fury over the Pope's message punctuating each comment with colourful expletives. On the way home she tapped Girlie on the shoulder, offered her a swig of evil looking brew from a hip flask (recipe was from Cuba) and pondered about whether she might have said the wrong thing at dinner. How very appropriate then that some 20 years later the Chair of Aged Care at the Catholic University in Melbourne was named The Edith Morgan Chair of Aged Care. This was an honour Edith was proud to accept (just a week or two before she died) as the University is strong on ethics, equity and social justice.
So, Edith never really changed and neither does the Pope. In 2004 he has written to his Bishop purporting to make workplaces more family friendly but actually seeking to keep women at home with their families. Australia's Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, has welcomed the letter as 'recognising the struggle working women face'. The Women's Electoral Lobby, on the other hand, has said, This continuing mantra from conservatives, whether they are political or religious conservatives, that work is somehow a choice ... is just plain offensive and ignorant of those women who are in the workforce because their families need them to be there' (Sarah Maddison, The Age, 1 August 2004). Anne Summers was also reported as saying, 'It sounds to me as if the church must be panicking because of the declining birth-rate in Catholic Europe'.
The clergy have been in quite a bit of bother with further scandals around child sexual abuse. Several Salesian Brothers have been accused, with one ABC newsreader inadvertently calling them the Salacious Brothers. In Stockholm a Lutheran Pastor has reached dizzy new heights of clerical scandal by faking a text message from God to get his lover to murder his wife and attempt to kill a neighbour. Helge Fossmo a Pentecostal Minister from Knutby (true name!) has been jailed for life for inciting the nanny to his children to bump off his second wife. Fossmo was having an affair with the nanny and the neighbour's w1fe. He claimed in his defence that the text messages from God were intended to guide the nanny in her faith.
On 2 April 2004 the Herald Sun (Melbourne) ran sensationalised front page black and red headlines that howled, 'IVF Secret Revealed: Single mothers, lesbians beat state ban on baby treatment. The story by Jan Kelly began:
Single women and lesbians have secretly won the right to taxpayer funded fertility treatment. The radical switch -designed to beat a state ban -is certain to cause controversy as it allows 'so-called' socially infertile omen to 1nsem1nate themselves w1th the help of Victoria's infertility clinics.
Well the Herald Sun is obviously doing all it can to cause controversy. By contrast Amanda Dunn (The Age, Melbourne, 3 April 2004) under the more moderate headline 'Lesbians get OK for donor sperm' writes:
Lesbians and single women wanting to become pregnant in Victoria will soon be able to have donor sperm screened, stored and returned to them for self-insemination.
Catharine Lumby (The Age, Melbourne, 4 August 2004) tackles Tony Abbot on his comments about feminists and abortion. Abbott had said, 'I'm pleased that some of Australia's leading feminists seem to be having a rethink about the abortion culture. I certainly am very uncomfortable about the abortion culture the way it stands.' It must have come as quite a shock to Abbott to realise there are many lively and varied views among feminists on abortion and other important issues. Catharine Lumby points out that feminism is about improving women's lives, and reducing the number of abortions is part of that She also notes that if Abbott really wanted to improve the lives of women and reduce abortion he might give some serious consideration to the awful dilemmas facing families who may be facing the prospect of bringing up seriously disabled children. Lumby writes: '... right now those families are abandoned in a way that should make us all ashamed. If Tony Abbott really wants to start a campaign to greatly expand government support for families with special-needs kids feminists of all persuasions w1ll be right behind him. I'll be the mascot and I'm happy to put on a bra before we march. But until men like Tony Abbott are prepared to improve the conditions that children are born into, or pregnant women wrenched out of, those of us who care about those women will see his views on abortion as just another sermon from on high.'
In what The Australian (29 July 2004) describes as 'plans to cut back the role of the Family Court and bounce lawyers out of the process' the Howard Government has announced the establishment of a national network of 65 family relationship centres to be operated by churches and existing relationship organisations. A Family Tribunal was rejected as being too expens1ve and fraught with constitutional problems. A mediated approach certainly has advantages over an adversarial approach but only if adequate resources and skilled people are available to do the work. The Federal Government also plans to legislate to ensure children spend time with their fathers -a scary prospect for kids who do not have a secure and loving relationship with their dads. The real challenge remains getting many dads to take any responsibility at all for their kids.
SALAYTIOUS is a feminist lawyer.