Australian Government acts over IVF
for single women
A story released today by the Australian Associated Press reports that federal
Attorney-General Daryl Williams has exercised a rarely-used power to ensure that the
Catholic Church can challenge a Federal Court decision granting a single Melbourne woman
the right to IVF.
"I have granted a fiat to the Australian Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church
to give the bishops standing to challenge the Federal Court decision in McBain v State of
Victoria in the High Court," he said.
"The fiat will enable the bishops to argue in the High Court that the Commonwealth
Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) is not inconsistent with the Victorian legislation."
A fiat is an authority that can be granted to someone who could not otherwise seek
court orders in their own right.
The Federal Court last year held that Victorian laws restricting IVF (in vitro
fertilization) access to women who were either married or in de facto relationships were
inconsistent with the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act (SDA).
Today, Mr. Williams said he had removed any doubt about the church's right to challenge
He said the Government would intervene to support the bishops' argument that the SDA
did not override Victorian laws, but the fiat would not extend to the bishops' second
They claim the SDA's prohibition on marital status discrimination did not give effect
to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women so was invalid.
"I have not granted my fiat in relation to that argument and the bishops will have
to persuade the (High) Court that they have a right to pursue this argument," Mr.
"The Commonwealth will intervene in the High Court proceedings to oppose this
argument and defend the constitutional validity of the (SDA)."
The Australian Family Association and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
have also been granted leave to intervene in the case.
The full bench of the High Court will hear the matter on September 4 and 5 in Canberra.
SDA amendments to enable states to make laws blocking single or lesbian women from
accessing IVF are still before federal parliament, following last year's Federal Court
Sunday,August 12, 2001
British Law Society unveils plans
for unmarried couples
A story published today by the Sunday-Times (London) reports that some cohabiting
British couples still believe that they can claim rights as a "common-law wife or
husband", but the status means nothing in the eyes of the law. A lot of them are also
unaware that they have virtually no legal rights unless they are married.
The Law Society in an effort to protect unmarried British couples has recommended a
number of changes to bring the law up to date. It suggests that couples - both
heterosexual and homosexual - should be allowed to draw up legally-binding cohabitation
contracts. These could set out who is entitled to what, should the relationship break
down. They could also prove especially valuable to couples with children.
However, the society does not recommend that unmarried people should automatically be
entitled to maintenance or half the assets. Instead, it suggests that maintenance could be
paid for up to four years to provide for "training or retraining". The proposal
is designed to solve the problem of unmarried women being left without a home, money or
the skills to get a job and support themselves.
Courts they recommend, should also be able to share assets between unmarried couples if
they separate - regardless of who originally bought them. When splitting assets, the court
would have to quantify the value of the input of each member to the relationship.
The proposals of the society are controversial and many critics believe that the plans
undermine the concept of marriage.
Single Nigerian woman sentenced for
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that an Islamic court in Nigeria
has sentenced a 20-year-old woman to 100 lashes with a cane in public for having an
Amina Abdullahi was convicted on Friday in Gusau, capital of Nigeria's northern Zamfara
state, for acknowledging that she had sex with a man who was not her husband.
Last year, Zamfara became the first of 12 Nigerian states to introduce Islamic law. Its
introduction sparked bloody clashes between Christians.
Tuesday, August 7, 2001
Australian government to back
Catholic church on gay fertility treatment'
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that
the Australian government says it will back the Catholic Church in a court battle aimed at
banning single women and lesbians from using fertility treatment.
Women's rights groups slammed the government's decision, saying it has no right to
intervene in reproductive matters.
The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference is challenging in the nation's highest
court a lower federal court decision in Victoria state last year allowing single women
access to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) or insemination services.
Within weeks of that decision, Prime Minister John Howard's government also introduced
a bill to amend the Federal Sex Discrimination Act and allow state governments to pass
laws banning single women from receiving IVF treatment.
Attorney General Daryl Williams said the government had given its support to the
bishops' challenge against allowing single women access to IVF.
However, Williams said the government would not support the church's broader stance on
discrimination regarding marital status. Such a precedent would mean unmarried people
could face prejudice in all facets of life, he said.
"The government does not agree with that, and in its intervention will oppose the
bishops on that point," Williams said.
Williams said if the High Court challenge was successful, the government could drop its
legislation to amend the SDA. The bill is currently before the Senate.
The Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL), which will defend the lower court decision in the
High Court, said the government's support of the Catholic Church position on women's
fertility issues was a "double standard."
"We're bitterly disappointed that the federal government is seeming to suggest
[they can intervene] in the area of reproductive health and women's rights to choose about
when and under which circumstances they have children," said WEL spokesperson Lisa
"The government even supports women when they have children outside wedlock, so
it's an enormous double standard," she added.
The case is to be heard before a full bench of the High Court on September 4.
Botswana seminar focuses on
the rise of cohabitation in the country
A story published today by the Daily News (Botswana)
reports that the controversial issue of cohabitation came under spotlight at a child
welfare seminar in Selebi-Phikwe last Tuesday which sparked a debate with some people
saying that it must be legalized.
A heated debate over the issue emerged at the three-day seminar focusing on issues of
child welfare after Nelson Keipidile, a social worker with the Selebi-Phikwe Town Council,
presented a paper entitled "Cohabitation and its effects on child growth."
Participants called for more community education on issues that emanate from
cohabitation. Other seminar participants complained that contradictions between
customary and common laws has affected the younger segment of the population in
avoiding marriage and opting instead to live with each other.
However, some participants said the marriage institution was dying because people no
longer value it; they favor cohabitation. Therefore, if cohabitation was not addressed,
people would no longer marry.