Post-election, my bus driver last night waxed lyrical about John Key “not having a mandate to sell state assets, 75% of New Zealanders are against, they just won’t do it”. Yet first thing this morning I saw this. Before I even sat down to think about gender equity.
Losing Carmel Sepuloni is terrible news. Not only because there’s now no Pacifica women in parliament, but because Ms Sepuloni, with Labour’s already departed Lynne Pillay, flew the flag determinedly for survivors of sexual violence:
Gone. Who, out of the current crop of women MPs, is going to take over the role of speaking out for women who survive violence?
Tariana Turia, with her innovative approach to ending family violence, “the look”? Judith Collins, with her rape culture supporting comments on male-on-male sexual assault? (Note: when we dismantle rape culture, it will not be acceptable for ANYONE to be coerced, forced or pressured into doing anything sexual).
The departure of Simon Power, with his personal committment to building better responses to sexual and family violence influenced by the murder of Sophie Elliott, is also a huge loss for parliament. Without him the National Party are harder right, less able to work across difference to produce good policy, like the improvements for survivors of sexual violence going through court process, or the extension of the national advocacy role for Louise Nicholas.
Well-known feminist Sue Kedgley, also gone. Just one feminist act among many, Ms Kedgley voted to decriminalise prostitution alongside all the other Green women, most of the Labour women, and one fifth of the National women.
Carol Beaumont’s championing of pay equity, gone from parliament. Departing Steve Chadwick, another committed to women’s rights in terms of maternal health, rights-based sexual and reproductive health and abortion reform despite Daddy Left not liking it. These Labour MPs flew the flag for women.
Who is going to pick this up and carry it?
Judith Collins wants to restrict access to abortion. Hekia Parata, an improvement on Georgina Te Heuheu in that she doesn’t describe the Ministry of Women’s Affairs as a “sexist relic”, is yet to impress as a strong advocate for women’s rights. Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Ardern are not scared to call themselves feminists – both may be important in putting gender on the agenda in their parties. Annette King and Lianne Dalziel have the experience in the house to continue arguing for where a women’s place should be.
Women in New Zealand desperately need some of our parliamentarians to step up to the mark to challenge our violence stats, our pay equity stats, the cultural supports for violence against women, sexism in the media, the positions of immigrant women in our communities, the hypersexualisation of girls (tricky but possible this, without turning into sex-hating abstinence cheerleaders), the work-life balance available to all whether we are parents or not, the different experiences women have of the benefit system because we are often the ones with primary responsibility for parenting and care-giving etc etc etc. The best bet, on current form, looks to be Catherine Delahunty and the band of new Green women.
And queer rights post election? The voting records of National’s top ten listed MPs are consistently homophobic. Gerry Brownlee says queer people are “not the same as other people”; Nick Smith says legislation protecting transpeople would be a “step backwards for our country”; and Judith Collins said of civil unions:
Is this a human rights issue? The census figures stated that 0. 3 per cent of adults in New Zealand say they live in a same-sex relationship – not a very large portion of the population – as opposed to the more than 45 per cent of adult New Zealanders who are married.
The queer caucuses will have to work across parties if they want to address queer issues like bullying in schools, adoption and partnership rights, heterosexist media and queer bashing. Will they? Will National’s Chris Finlayson realise not all queer people want to be celibate? And will some of the straight parliamentarians support queer rights? History shows if they do, they will probably be women, with 76% of women MPs voting for the Civil Union Act cf just 50% of male MPs.
I realise some on the left will think my interest in rights for women and queer people post this election is playing identity politics when the *real* issues of class and dosh should be being attended to. I disagree. I think we should be aiming higher. It’s time for our parliamentarians who believe in equity and fairness and compassion – because those are the values which these issues have in common – to stand up for having a socialism of the heart:
My message to
the 1% the National and Act parties – remember this last line. Please.