by Jan Logie
The 2014 election offers New Zealanders the opportunity to make history by electing the first strong green genuinely progressive government in more than a generation.
The next wave of progressive change that is sweeping the world is green. The green revolution is transforming the way we live on planet earth as we learn to live good lives on a finite planet with limited natural resources.
The next wave of progressive change that is sweeping the world is promoting protection of the environment and challenging violence against women and children.
The next wave of Green progressive government values us all and works creatively and committedly to ensure all of us are safe and keep our mana in tact, so that we can contribute and truly enjoy this wonderful place we live.
In New Zealand we do have a terrible problem. All too many of our women and children (and occasionally men) are hurt or killed by intimate partner violence/domestic violence and sexual violence. The police are called out to an incidence of Domestic violence every 6 minutes.
Last year, in 2 weeks, over 110,000 New Zealanders signed a petition asking demanding the government take action in the wake of the rapes in Auckland that left victims exposed and unable to access justice.
And Last year and again this year there has been a public outpouring of grief and almost bewilderment at the deaths of women and children who should have been protected by our systems.
Domestic Violence was described as a ‘hot topic’ at the review of our human rights at the United Nations last week.
So what has the Government done? Not much that’s been helpful and sadly they’ve done too much to make things worse.
On the plus side, Minister Bennett has supported the inquiry into funding for specialist sexual violence services. This is vitally important. We can’t afford not to do it. I expect, and I know the sector and definitely the community expect to see a significant increase in funding this year. It has been encouraging working with the government on this, even while they call us fringe Taliban monsters.
But to be honest this initiative is at odds with the rest of this Government’s actions.
On Saturday the Minister said they’d been making progress, they’d put in $1million over 2 years for some women to put locks on their doors and have increased the maximum penalty for breaching a protection order last year from two years’ imprisonment to three, and also expanded the definition of domestic violence to include economic and financial abuse.
This needs to be seen in the context of the following changes implemented by that same Minister, and I’m not even starting on the impact of changes in other portfolios.
• Judith Collins stopped the Law Commission work to create a justice system where more than 1 in 100 victims of sexual violence could get justice. She just took this work, mid process, off the agenda because she didn’t like a few of the recommendations.
• She changed the evidence act to make it more difficult to take cases to court that rely on he said or she said evidence – ie mostly dv and sexual violence cases.
• She restructured the Family Court to save money for the Crown rather than fixing the very well documented problems for victims of domestic violence and their children.
• She even removed the clause in the Act that required judges to do a risk assessment if there were allegations of violence and made NZ one of the only countries in the world to ban lawyers from parts of the process. Consider that in the context of very uneven power relationships.
• While she added economic abuse to the Act this was done knowing that the provision against psychological abuse is failing miserably and in that context this has little chance of making a difference.
While she extended the penalties for breaching protections orders she has done nothing to ensure breaches are responded to appropriately. Recent tragedies and research over time has told us there is a problem with police not charging if they don’t think the court will respond and courts at time chastising police for bringing what they consider minor breaches to court.
• She made cuts to access to legal aid which mean some women are paying thousands of dollars to try and get protection orders.
• She introduced fees of around $900 for accessing the family court.
Combine all this with the fact fewer men are being referred to stopping violence programmes and some women are being forced to attend couple counseling with their abusers and we can see our access to justice and systems of protection are being seriously undermined.
That is how the National Party prioritises ending violence against women and children.
This election you can vote for more of that, OR you could vote for a strong Green progressive government that is really committed to a society where all NZers have the fundamental right to be safe and get justice. A strong Green progressive govt sees the connections and has a passion to turn his around because we know no-one is born an abuser and this violence is not inevitable.