There has been a marked shift away from social liberalism in many parts of the world which has profound ramifications for women, whose status remains contingent on the good graces of public institutions that remain resolutely masculinist. Neoliberalism, with its focus on the privatisation of public goods and promotion of the self within the market has become the dominant political ideology everywhere and is further undermining the interests of the majority of women. This essay will address the changing fortunes of sex discrimination legislation as a specific example of an initiative designed to improve the status of women. Australia will be used as a case study because of its passionate embrace of, first, social liberalism, and then, neoliberalism. Issues pertaining to affirmative action (positive action), intersection with human rights instruments, reporting requirements and incentives will also be addressed. Although Australia is a multi-jurisdictional federation, the essay will focus primarily on the federal arena in terms of legislative initiatives, policy and jurisprudence.
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