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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7611

Senator GREIG (8:14 PM) —These are sensible amendments from the government, and they will be supported by the Democrats because they address what I would call gender sensitivities as well as cultural sensitivities. We heard from many people in various Senate committee hearings, particularly the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee hearing on this issue, and I would like to quote briefly from a submission we received from Mohammed Waleed Kadous and Agnes Hoi-Shan Chong, who made the following observation on this issue:

All of the above issues—

and they are referring to an earlier part of their submission—

apply general to the whole of the community, and any member of the community could be affected by it; although the Muslim community is likely to bear the brunt of the issues. However, one particular issue of concern to Muslim men and women is “frisking searches” by police officers.

They go on to state their case that Islam has strict regulations about the interaction of Muslim men and women. They said:

In an ideal Islamic environment, physical contact between men and women is minimised. This extends even so far as to a matter such as handshakes and so on. This applies to both men and women.

In the context of frisk searches that are deemed necessary, ideally male officers should frisk male Muslims, and female officers frisk female Muslims. The reverse would cause great offence to people of Muslim background; in particular, the idea of male police officers frisking female Muslims, is particularly offensive in all Muslim cultures.

And so it goes on; you can get the flavour of their argument. They go on to argue later in their submission that the legislation be amended further `so that male officers should frisk males and female officers frisk females'. They say that this is similar to the regulations regarding strip searches and that strip searches specifically prohibit touching of areas between the navel and the knee. That latter part is not something that I could support. I do not think we should take religious sensitivities to the extreme of not frisking people thoroughly but, in terms of gender and some religious sensitivities, these amendments make good sense and have our support.

Question agreed to.