How much does gender matter this election?

Feeling guilty about my big P political lethargy this election, I’ve decided to compare each parties women’s or gender policies as a measure for commitment to gender equity, and share them with you all, complete with an exciting rating system.  A more detailed review would examine every party policy for gender implications, but I’m still mildly lethargic so here’s the short sharp version.  Enjoy.

United Future has a Gender Affairs policy.  Highlights include targeting family violence policy towards recognising men and women are both perpetrators and victims of family violence.  This despite Peter Dunne’s Families Commission confirming family violence is heavily gendered, not gender neutral requiring equal opportunity responses.   There’s also a new Gender Ministry to replace Women’s Affairs and “recognise the specific needs of both genders.”  Rating:  Patriarchal.

New Zealand First has a policy manifesto.  No women’s policy, but women are mentioned six times in the 116 page document. Rating: Negligent.

ACT has no policy on women or gender inequality.   There’s no need, because market forces ensure girls can do anything.

The Mana Party Social Wellbeing policy and Maori Party Whanau Ora policy do not mention gender or women, disappointing given the fact colonisation has done wahine Maori no favours.  While I recognise there are world view issues here, honouring Mana Wahine is readily available within Te Ao Maori – and Mana’s Annette Sykes in particular is an expert.  Given the horrific rates of violence against Maori women and the education, employment and health stats which Maori women wrestle with, a Mana Wahine policy seems critical to true whanau ora.  Ratings: Neglectful x 3.

Now, the big three in the polls.  National’s two page policy explains upcoming plans and describes their achievements in government, including the lowest ever gender pay gap, at 9.6%, based on the NZ Income Survey.   I decided to have a look at hourly wages from the Quarterly Employment Survey:

Which looks more like a steady gender gap of 13% to me.

National also trumpet their improved services for survivors of sexual violence – court advisors and a discretionary victim grant of $500.  Both good (court advisors training was a couple of weeks ago so just squeaking under the wire) and a testament to Simon Power’s commitment to these issues.  But disingenous from a government which slashed funding for therapy for sexual violence survivors, then did an about turn six months and several survivor suicides later when said funding cut miserably failed an independent review.

National are planning, if re-elected, to continue contributing to intiatives to end violence against women.  Difficult to square with the funding cuts last term to the award winning “It’s Not Ok” campaign.  Let’s hope there are some genuine prevention measures in the pipeline.  Rating:  Could Do Better.

Now to Labour and the Greens.  Both have women’s policies.  The Greens are the only party to acknowledge a variety of gender identities, in their “Sexual Orientation and Gender/Sex Identity Policy.” Labour’s Rainbow policy in contrast is silent on gender identity.

Labour gets a tick for fronting up on the gender pay gap, work-life balance, mothering and care-giving and women’s health.  Their plans to address violence against women are strong and sensible, moving the sexual and domestic violence sectors into greater collaboration and suggesting a cross party approach.  It’s about time, particularly since it was the last Labour government which repeatedly back-tracked in naming “family” violence as a gendered issue, and allowed the courts to move away from fully implementing the Domestic Violence Act under pressure from men’s rights groups.

The Labour policy also repeatedly recognises that women of different ethnicities, ages and abilities may have different needs, which is a welcome relief.  Requiring information about pay rates to be available, for example, will impact very differently on women in different sectors of paid work, even if it benefits all women.

Some of the policy is aspirational, without clear steps being described, which undermines credibility.  But overall, this is a strong policy.  Rating: Good.

The Greens policy clearly aims for gender equity for all women.  The key principles are aspirational, including the only reference in any policy to Te Tiriti – vital, I’d have thought, for talking about gender equity in Aotearoa.  They also embed state responsibilities in an international human rights context – so place gender firmly in both the local and global – and name structural and indirect discrimination as concerns.  Pay equity, mothering and violence against women all get a mention.

Even more impressive is the detailed policy plan the Greens produce, naming the legislation they will use to implement their aspirations.  They detail plans to financially and socially support mothers, including in the workplace, increase workplace flexibility, monitor pay rates with a view to enforcing equal pay legislation and ensure women in low paid work/living on benefits have adequate resources.  The healthcare plans are comprehensive too.

The Greens fall down a little on violence against women, where their policy is almost exclusively focussed on domestic violence rather than including sexual violence, and their prevention plans – innovative in focussing on violence in the media – do not include evidence based skills focused education in learning respectful and ethical negotiation behaviours.

The education policy ideas would allow higher education to be accessible to more than middle-class women by reducing costs; similarly the justice plans to review protection order costs and increase law centre funding.  And asking wahine Maori and migrant women what they need is welcome.  Though using “lesbian relationships” to talk about same-sex couples is clumsy and out-of-context in terms of human rights, overall this is an excellent policy document with easily the most substance of all those on offer.  Rating: Green Star.

4 thoughts on “How much does gender matter this election?

  1. Pingback: Election 2011 recommended reading « Ideologically Impure

  2. Pingback: And on that note… | missing sparkles

  3. You might be interested to know that Carl Davidson, Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission acknowledged in the NZ Herald (24/11/11) that “violence is a family concern, not just an issue of gender”. The Families Commission suggests that the gender comparisons debate is the least useful as all forms of violence whoever the perpertrator and whatever their gender, are unacceptable.

    • Hi Margaret,
      yet the Families Commission is the lead agency for White Ribbon Day in New Zealand – a day focusing on ending male violence against women. Noticing the fact that gender is a key factor in family and sexual violence doesn’t mean forms of violence in which men or boys are victimised, or women are perpetrators, are more acceptable. It just means allowing yourself the best chance of responding well and preventing that violence, because you’re paying attention to who is most often victimised, and who is most often perpetrating harm.

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