Sex discrimination

Discrimination is treating, or proposing to treat, someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. This includes bullying someone because of a protected characteristic.

In Victoria it is against the law to discriminate against you because of your sex or characteristics associated with your sex, such as carer responsibilities, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Although men can experience sex discrimination, women are more likely to be discriminated against because of their sex. This is because women are more likely to care for children or other family members, and because they may become pregnant or need to breastfeed a child.

Examples of sex discrimination

Barbara applies to a bus company for a job as a bus driver. She was a transport driver in the RAAF and has plenty of experience. When the employer gives her the job he says he doubts that she will be able to hack the pace and that she will be paid less than the men until she proves herself.

Mike sees an advertisement for a job as a sales representative for a cosmetics company. When he telephones to express his interest, the personnel manager says: “‘Sorry, we don’t have any male reps and we like to keep it that way’.

Other unfavourable treatment based on sex

Other types of unfavourable treatment related to a person’s sex are:

Where can discrimination occur?

Discrimination is against the law when it occurs in an area of public life such as clubs, schools and shops, or in the workplace.

Find out more about general places of discrimination or learn more specifically about sex discrimination in employment.

Are there any exceptions?

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some exceptions, which mean that discrimination will not be against the law in particular circumstances.

Positive steps can also be taken to help disadvantaged groups using special measures, which is not discrimination under the law.

If an exception or special measure does not apply, in some circumstances an exemption from the Act may be sought from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Discrimination against you because of your sex may be permitted in employment if is a genuine occupational requirement that an employee is of a particular sex (for example, to fit clothes or conduct body searches).

The Act also includes exceptions that apply to competitive sporting activities. It is not against the law to discriminate against a person because of their sex when it relates to competitive standards, that is, a competitive sporting activity in which the strength, stamina or physique of the competitors is relevant.

Make a complaint to the Commission

If you think you have been discriminated againstsexually harassedvictimised or vilified, contact us and talk about your concerns. Our dispute resolution service is free and confidential. We can send you information about the complaint process and if we can’t help you we will try to refer you to someone who can.

To make a complaint:

Find out more about making a complaint.

Additional information

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Mechanisms for Advancing Women’s Human Rights helps advocates, lawyers and women to use international complaint mechanisms when they are left with no other option to address discrimination.

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