Melbourne: ‘Gender and Sexual Diversity: a Question of Humanity?’ – Public Lecture with Professor Di Otto – 24 August


Gender and Sexual Diversity:
a Question of Humanity?
Professor Dianne Otto

The Wednesday Lectures 2016 hosted by Raimond Gaita

It is striking how often people now speak of ‘a common humanity’ in an ethically inflected register, one that expresses a fellowship of all the peoples of the earth. More often than not, however, we refer to the idea of a common humanity when we lament the failure of its acknowledgment. The forms of that failure are depressingly many: racism, sexism homophobia, the dehumanization of our enemies, of unrepentant criminals and those who suffer severe and degrading affliction. As often as someone reminds us that ‘we are all human being’, someone will reply that to be treated like a human being you must behave like one.

Many people appear now to fear that within twenty years or less national and international politics will be dominated by crises that caused and inflamed by the shameful gap between the rich and the poor nations, aggravated by the effects of climate change. They fear their children and grandchildren will not be protected as they have been from the terrors suffered by most of the peoples of the earth because of impoverishment, natural disasters and the evils inflicted upon them by other human beings. In such circumstances the ideal and even the very idea of a common humanity is likely to seem to have been a foolish illusion.

The six Wednesday Lectures of 2016 will explore what sustains and what erodes the idea of a common humanity and, more radically, whether it is a useful idea with which to think about the moral, legal and political relations between people and peoples.

Wednesday, 24 August: Gender and Sexual Diversity: a Question of Humanity?

Sexuality and gender are arguably as fundamental to our sense of what it means to be human as our mortality and vulnerability to misfortune. For that reason some forms of hostility to gays, lesbians, transgender and intersex people amount to a denial, not only of their rights, but also, more fundamentally, of their full humanity. Hostility to gays, lesbians, transgender and intersex people is fierce in many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, although it is hardly absent from western countries. The rise of right wing populism in Britain, Europe, America and to a lesser extent in Australia, suggest that gains achieved on behalf of the LGBTI community may be reversed. For that reason, many fear that a plebiscite in Australia on marriage equality will be the occasion for ugly expressions of hostility. Dianne Otto will examine the nature and extent of this hostility in Australia and elsewhere, what, if anything, we can justifiably expect from international law and what, realistically, we might get.

Speaker: Dianne Otto is Francine V McNiff Professor in Human Rights Law, Director of Institute for International law and the Humanities and Co-Director of its International Human Rights Law Programme at The Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne.

Otto has held visiting positions at Columbia University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, New York University and the University of British Columbia. In 2004 she was the Kate Stoneman Endowed Visiting Professor in Law and Democracy, at Albany Law School in New York. Through her NGO involvement, she helped draft a General Comment on women’s equality for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and a General Recommendation on treaty obligations for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and was a member of the Expert Panel at the Asia-Pacific Regional Women’s Hearing on Gender-Based Violence in Conflict held in Phnom Penh in 2012.

Her publications include three edited volumes, Gender Issues and Human Rights; Rethinking Peace Keeping, Gender Equality and Collective Security; Feminist approaches to International Law (edition 1). She has also written many chapters for books and articles for journals, most recently, a chapter in Margaret Davies and Vanessa Munro (Eds.), A Research Companion to Feminist Legal Theory, and an article in Jindal Global Law Review (2013). She also authored a bibliographic chapter, ‘Feminist Approaches’, in Tony Carty (Ed.) Oxford Bibliographies Online: International Law.


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