Cases about right to privacy (3)

G v Australia (HRC, 2017)

Remedy's assessment: Unremedied

Ms G is a transgender woman. She changed her name on her birth certificate and had her driver’s license, Medicare card and credit cards reissued in her new name and successfully applied for a passport in her new name and gender. She married a woman, and subsequently underwent gender affirmation surgery.

Because Australia does not permit same-sex marriage, it will not change the gender on the birth certificate of someone who is married. The same restriction does not apply to other identity documents, such as passports.

Ms G’s birth certificate states that she was born male, but presents and identifies female. It thereby reveals private information about the fact that she is transgender and is a violation of her right to privacy (art 17).

Requiring Ms G to divorce in order to obtain a birth certificate that correctly identifies her gender is arbitrary interference with her right to family (art 17).

Further, “by denying transgender persons who are married a birth certificate that correctly identifies their sex, in contrast to unmarried transgender and non-transgender persons, the government is failing to afford the author and similarly situated individuals equal protection under the law”. The HRC found Ms G experienced discrimination on the basis of her marital status and her transgender identity (art 26).

Australia must make “full reparation” to Ms G, including providing her with a birth certificate consistent with her sex. Australia must also prevent similar violations in the future by revising its legislation to comply with the Covenant.

Read more on G v Australia.

Horvath v Australia (HRC, 2014)

Remedy's assessment: Partially remedied

In 1996, 21-year-old Corinna Horvath was assaulted by police during an unlawful raid on her home. Her nose was broken and she was hospitalised for 5 days. Despite her case reaching the High Court of Australia, Ms Horvath has still not received the compensation awarded to her by the County Court when it first heard the case in 2001.  Further, none of the police involved has been disciplined or prosecuted for what the Court found to be trespass, assault, unlawful arrest and false imprisonment. Ms Horvath seeks compensation and effective discipline of the police officers involved. In 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee found that her right to an effective remedy has been violated and recommended legislative reform and compensation.

Read more on Horvath v Australia.

Toonen v Australia (HRC, 1994)

Remedy's assessment: Remedied

Nick Toonen was a gay Tasmanian in a state where consenting sex between adult men in private was still punishable by up to 25 years’ gaol. Mr Toonen alleged that this violated his right to privacy and that the only effective remedy would be repeal of the relevant provisions of the Tasmanian Criminal Code. The Australian Government agreed with Mr Toonen, noting that homosexuality had been decriminalised in all other Australian jurisdictions. The Tasmanian Government defended its laws, however, on public health and moral grounds. The HRC found the laws were an arbitrary interference with Mr Toonen’s right to privacy and that an effective remedy would require the repeal of those laws. It also established that the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of ‘sex’ found in articles 2(1) and 26 includes sexual orientation. Australia enacted the Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994 (Cth) to prohibit laws that arbitrarily interfere with the sexual conduct of adults in private. Tasmania subsequently amended its Criminal Code.

Read more on Toonen v Australia.