Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics

Our Work

Every human being is born free in dignity and rights. The Commission's role in the social equality space is to ensure that this is true for everyone regardless of their age, gender, income, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or health status.

Our work in this area involves removing barriers to social equality so all people in New Zealand enjoy access to human rights. In this section you can find out about how we do this, who we do it with, along with resources to make your workplaces, schools, and communities a better place to be for everyone.

We work across the Commission with regards to Social Equality, and no one Commissioner leads our work in this area.

We work in partnership with others to help individuals and organisations around New Zealand to understand their rights and meet their legal responsibilities. We do this by working with government, business, community partners, education providers, the media and workplaces.

The full list of Commission projects, programmes and events relating to Social Equality are listed below.

A fair go for all

This report looks at the role structural discrimination may play in perpetuating inequalities. We have examined health, justice, education, and economic systems – as well as the public service – to see what barriers exist, and what is happening to break them down. We then ask, is the Government doing enough? Read the report here.

Balancing rights: Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Discrimination

This report looks at the human rights issues around the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act. Read more here.

Born Free and Equal

Born Free and Equal is the Commission’s guide on human rights, sexual orientation, sex and gender identity. You can read it here.

The Right to Breastfeed

The Commission has produced a guideline on the prevention of pregnancy discrimination. You can read it here.   

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

The Canterbury earthquakes represent New Zealand’s greatest contemporary human rights challenge. The Commission has a unique and necessary role to play in the Canterbury recovery. It has the mandate and expertise to help the people of Canterbury find practical ways to sort problems that have a foundation in human rights. You can read more about our work in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery here.

The Commission released the report Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery. The aim of this report is to encourage influencers and decision-makers to put human rights principles at the centre of decision-making in civil emergencies, and more broadly when developing social policies. Read more here.

Human Rights in New Zealand 2010

Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 is the Commission's report card on the state of human rights in New Zealand. In relation to Social Equality it includes chapters on:

Marriage equality and adoption equality endorsement

The Commission has prepared a short paper endorsing marriage equality and a non-discriminatory approach to adoption. The paper summarises case law and legislative debates around marriage equality and adoption in New Zealand in the context of the right to found and form a family. Read more here.

Pink Shirt Day: 22 May 2015

Pink Shirt Day is run in New Zealand by the Mental Health Foundation and is about working together to prevent or stop bullying by celebrating people's difference and promoting positive relationships. The Commission support this day by promoting the day and encouraging all New Zealanders to take part. Read about Pink Shirt Day here.


Migrants in the Rebuild
The Commission's December 2015 Podcast featured host, Sally chatting with guests Lana Hart and Delia Richards on the Christchurch Rebuild, and the migrants that are working there. You can listen here. 

Christchurch: An Accessible City?
For the Commission's January 2016 Podcast, host Sally chatted with the HRC's Erin Gough, as well as Lorraine Guthrie, Ruth Jones and John Bourke. You can listen here. 

School violence, bullying and abuse

Bullying, harassment and/or violence at school are serious problems. The Commission works to address this issue as a member of the Bullying Prevention Advisory Group. In addition we have published an analysis of the human rights issues in situations of school bullying, harassment and/or violence, as well as a bullying prevention and response guide for schools.

Read more about our work in school violence, bullying, and abuse here.

The Inquiry into Discrimination Experienced by Transgender People

The Inquiry into Discrimination Experienced by Transgender People was carried out in 2006, and reported on in 2008. As part of this the Commission published To Be Who I Am/Kia noho au ki toku ano ao, the final report of its Transgender Inquiry. You can learn more about the Inquiry here.

The National Day of Silence

The Commission is an official supporter of this day of action in which students vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, name-calling and harassment in schools. Learn more here.

The White Camellia Awards

The White Camellia awards honour organisations who have committed to increasing gender equality in the workplace by signing up to the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles. The awards are organised in part by the Human Rights Commission.

Trans people facts & information resource

The Commission has created a resource which focuses on the common human rights issues faced by whakawāhine, tangata ira tane, fa’afafine, fakaleiti, akava’ine, trans, gender queer and other gender diverse and gender questioning people in New Zealand. View the resource here.

Sexual harassment guide

The Commission has created a guide for people on how to respond to sexual harassment and how the Commission can help. Read the guide here.

Valuing Older Workers

The guide, Valuing Experience: a practical guide to recruiting and retaining older workers, provides information both on older worker’s rights and responsibilities and tips for employers.

Speaking Out Proud

As part of the ILGA Proud - Human Rights & Health conference held in Wellington on 10 March, 2016, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission held a moderated 'open hearing' where prepared questions were delivered to politicians.

The session was chaired by Commissioner Richard Tankersley from the Human Rights Commission.

Submitters: Bella Simpson, Eliana Rubashkyn, Elizabeth Kerekere, Jack Byrne, Joey Macdonald, Sally Dellow and Sandra Dixon.

Panel members: David Seymour (MP for Epsom, leader of ACT New Zealand), Dennis O'Rourke (List MP, New Zealand First), Jackie Blue (Human Rights Commission), Kevin Hague (List MP, Green Party) and Louisa Wall (MP for Manurewa, Labour Party).

Listen to Speaking Out Proud (1:23:53): HTML5 player | Flash player | Mp3 | HQ mp3

APF Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex manual for NHRIs

The APF-UNDP manual explores how NHRIs can work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities and better advocate for their rights. Read it here