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Public statement: Sex characteristics now a protected attribute in the Equal Opportunity Act

26 October 2021

To better protect from discrimination, sex characteristics has now been added to the Equal Opportunity Act.

Sex characteristic discrimination is when someone is treated unfairly or bullied because of their physical features related to their sex. This type of discrimination is experienced by people born with variations in sex characteristics – people with intersex variations.

A person with an intersex variation is born with atypical natural variations to sex characteristics such as variations in chromosomes, hormones or anatomy. Intersex traits are a natural part of human bodily diversity.

Sex characteristics include:

  • genitalia and other sexual and reproductive parts
  • chromosomes, genes, hormones, and secondary physical features that emerge as a result of puberty.

Before 26 October 2021, sex characteristics was not a protected attribute. Other protections, such as the previous definition of gender identity which referred to a ‘person of indeterminate sex’ identifying as a ‘member of a particular sex’ were inappropriate because gender identity and intersex status are not the same.

Read more about sex characteristic discrimination.

Two definitions in the Equal Opportunity Act will also be updated to better reflect the lives and experiences of all Victorians:

Gender identity

“gender identity means a person’s gender-related identity, which may or may not correspond with their designated sex at birth, and includes the personal sense of the body (whether this involves medical intervention or not) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech, mannerisms, names and personal references;”

Sexual orientation

“sexual orientation means a person’s emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, or intimate or sexual relations with, persons of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender;”

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The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges that we work on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We also work remotely and serve communities on the lands of other Traditional Custodians.

We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.