Other Kinds of Discrimination, includingSocial Discrimination
There are many other kinds of discrimination that may be experienced by people with a genetic condition or predisposition. Some of them are unlawful under federal or state anti-discrimination legislation and there are the same opportunities to lodge formal complaints as those described in the section What Can You Do? However, sometimes, what is perceived as discrimination may arise from being treated differently from other people (social discrimination) and there may be no legal remedy. It is harder to address this type of discrimination, although sometimes it is this type of discrimination that affects people the most.This type of conduct is generally not covered by the legislation and complaint procedures for anti-discrimination. However, your health care professional may be able to provide you with documentation of your disorder that you can show to people.They may also be able to help you talk to people who do not understand your circumstances or those of your family member. You can, of course, talk to the other person about how you feel and hope that they will apologise and treat you and other people with a condition or predisposition like yours more fairly in future.
Discrimination that is unlawful The federal and state anti-discrimination legislation covers many kinds of unlawful discrimination in addition to the kinds described earlier (insurance, employment and education).The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) Part 2 Division 2 deals with discrimination in access to:
goods, services and facilities;
clubs and incorporated associations;
programs administered by the Commonwealth; for example, when seeking information on government entitlements, accessing government programs, or using voting facilities.
“Services” in which unlawful discrimination is prohibited under this Act include (s 4(1) definition of “services”):
services relating to entertainment, recreation, refreshment, transport or travel;
services provided by the members of any profession or trade; and
services of the kind provided by a government
The Act also covers discrimination because a person has an associate with a disability, such as a family member: s 7. This means that you can lodge a complaint under the Act if you feel that you have suffered any of these kinds of discrimination. However the “discriminator” may have a defence if “avoiding the discrimination would impose an unjustifiable hardship” on that person: s 29A.
The Act prohibits ‘victimisation’, which includes any acts against you for exercising your rights under the Act – ss 41(1),(2)(f) (there is a penalty of 6 months imprisonment for this offence). There are similar provisions in the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic).
social discrimination and feeling victimised/ treated differently Discrimination can occur in more subtle forms as social stigmatisation or exclusion from ordinary conversations, negative comments, or obvious or less obvious avoidance of an individual.
People with genetic conditions have described instances of “adverse treatment” in personal relationships and the experience of being socially devalued and treated differently because of family history or genetic test results can be very painful and perceived as unfair.
People with a genetic condition or predisposition have sometimes reported that they or their family members have been ‘roughed up’, assaulted, and physically and verbally abused due to their genetic condition, especially if their disorder makes them look different from other people.Any physical violence, or a threat of violence, is a criminal offence and you can report this to the police.
blood donation One example of this type of discrimination that has been reported in our study is the policy of the Australian Red Cross not to accept some people with genetic conditions as potential blood donors.
Although people who are rejected as blood donors naturally feel stigmatised, is should be remembered that many other people are also excluded, such as people under 16 or over 70; or suffering from a cold, flu or other illness or a serious heart condition; or who have been tattooed recently or are pregnant or have just given birth; or who are low in iron; or have lived in the UK for 6 months or more between 1980 and 1996 (due to risk of variant CJD); or have engaged in at risk sexual activity in the past 12 months; or used intravenous recreational drugs). The reasons for exclusion are either concern for the welfare of the donor or the risk of contaminating the blood supply.
If you are rejected as a blood donor because of a genetic condition, you could talk to the Australian Red Cross directly about this on 13 14 95.However, if you are still rejected, there is no legal path that you can take to require them to accept you as a donor.
Case Studies of Social Discrimination
Fred’s father was jailed overnight for drunk and disorderly behaviour when he was just severely affected with Huntington’s disease. When he was in a jail cell and was yelling and shouting to get out, this was thought to be due to drunkenness.
Dianne is being treated with chemotherapy for cancer and lost her hair. She complained that a club would not allow her to enter with her hat on. The complaint was settled with an apology and an agreement to review the club policy on hats.
Michael is a young man diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and is frequently accused of being drunk, as a result of his unsteady gait, slurred speech and involuntary movements. This in turn causes bars to refuse entry/service, people to point and stare, and for his employer to question his sobriety.
This information is intended as a general guide only and you should obtain legal advice if you have specific questions.