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Australia to crack down on homophobia among fans, coaches and players in sports

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Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination bill is proposed as new legislation

Aussie Rules Football
Aussie Rules Football
Paul Kane

Australia is poised to legally ban homophobic insults by fans, coaches and players in sports under proposed legislation in a Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination bill.

"Abuse on the sporting ground or abuse by a spectator would constitute, in an appropriate circumstance, harassment," said Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission president Gillian Triggs.

"If a coach were to act in a homophobic way, like abusing a player and calling him a `poofter', and made life difficult in the change room so he's totally demoralized, you would start to see that as either harassment or ultimately employment discrimination."

Kate Carnell, the head of the depression awareness group Beyond Blue cited a study that showed only 19% of young gay Australian athletes felt safe in their sport.

"There must be gay players at the elite level of football in Australia, but they are not comfortable enough to come out," she said. "At this stage, sport is a very difficult environment and culture for gay players to stay in, let alone become elite players."

Spokesmen for Aussie Rules Football and the National Rugby League said their sports already ban homophobic abuse, but the proposed law would apply to every sporting venue in the country and would be a welcome step to bringing awareness to the issue.