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Response to QLD Chief Justice Helen Bowskill


On 1 November 2023, the South Australian Court issued a practice note on pronunciation of names and gender pronouns. The Chief Justice became embroiled in a Twitter/X exchange with author JK Rowling about the appropriateness of bringing gender ideology into the courtroom.

Women's Rights Network Australia took the opportunity to write to the court, to clarify a number of questions we had:

  1. The refusal by a lawyer to use a preferred pronoun will result in any court sanction.

  2. The practice direction applies to complainants, witnesses and people giving victim impact statements.

  3. A complainant, witness or victim of crime who refuses to use a preferred pronoun could be subject to court sanction, and if so, what type of sanction?

  4. A woman or child who is a complainant in a rape trial will have to refer to the alleged rapist as a “she”, so, for example, a woman or child would have to give evidence to the effect that “x inserted ‘her penis’ into my vagina/anus”?

Several days later, we followed with a public statement and emailed a copy to the Chief Justice of each Australian state.

Developments in Queensland

It appears we were too late to make an impact in Queensland. Chief Justice Helen Bowskill issued practice direction 10/2023 in April 2023 that supported the use of "preferred gender pronoun and title (Mr, Ms, Mrs, Mx etc)".

The Australian reports that Chief Justice Helen Bowskill announced at a recent Pride in Law event that she has "taken a stand against the patriarchy" by buttressing pronoun use and redesigning forms to read "Ms/Mr" rather than "Mr/Ms" (archive link).

Our Response to Chief Justice Helen Bowskill

Judges should stick to the law and never be seen to be aligning themselves with any ideological or political movement. As we said in our 8 November statement on the SA Practice Note on pronouns, public confidence in the courts depends on the courts maintaining a strictly neutral, evidence-based and non-ideological approach.

LGB people and those who identify as "transgender, queer or questioning" have the same rights and responsibilities under the law as non-LGBTQ people, and have had for some time now. So why is Chief Justice Bowskill of the Queensland Supreme Court giving a keynote address to Pride in Law about diversity, inclusion and equity in the courts and praising the Court's practice direction on 'preferred pronouns'? Under this practice direction, a male alleged sex offender could require the court and all present to refer to him with female pronouns - a gross affront to reality and deeply disrespectful to female victim-survivors.

This is gender ideology in action. Where is the respect to natal women? Yet Chief Justice Bowskill expects a pat on the back for changing some court forms to place the 'Ms' before the 'Mr'.

We suggest the Chief Justice read the statement we emailed to her on 8 November, which sets out how and why 'preferred pronouns' policies in court are anti-women, and play into the hands of a regressive and damaging ideology.

The courts must take care not to allow themselves to be captured by gender identity ideology.

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