This report card is incomplete – must do better

Minister of Women’s Affairs Jo Goodhew has been giving a “report card” over the last few days to the United Nations on how well women in New Zealand are doing.  This is the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – CEDAW – and we report very four years, a kinda road map to gender equality.

Unfortunately, our GPS system seems to be malfunctioning.  Women’s Health Action found a number of concerns they wanted to raise related to contraceptive coercion for women on benefits, failures for comprehensive sexual and reproductive education in schools to reach all young people, an increasing tendency for the definition of “child” to be broadened to include the unborn in legislation and interpretation, and barriers for up to one sixth of women in seeking first trimester abortions.

And then there is violence against women.  As Gordon Campbell points out – and his form around sexual violence is not unblemished, so this is interesting – under this government, survivors of sexual violence have been restricted from accessing potentially life-saving therapy by deliberate policy changes within ACC.  Even when those policy changes were ripped up on review, ACC has continued to stop people getting the help they needs – just 3.6% of survivors who applied had their therapy funded by ACC in 2011.

Report backs from Women’s Health Action confirm Minister Goodhew is getting a grilling over violence against women – partly because here in Aotearoa we’re too scared to acknowledge that domestic and sexual violence are about as gendered as an experience gets.  Apparently the Minister for Women’s Affairs is struggling to acknowledge, at CEDAW, that violence against women is a problem.

Incredibly, Minister Goodhew’s list of government plans for reducing violence against women as reported to CEDAW do not mention sexual violence even once.

The CEDAW committee aren’t loving us making Family Court processes more expensive and less safe for women in “relationship disputes” and they are not loving the fact that the 2009 Taskforce Report for Action on Sexual Violence is still largely unacted upon.  This of course, includes the fact that the Law Commission review of trial processes for sexual violence seems to be sitting in limbo.

I suggested last week that I believe it is time to email Justice Minister Judith Collins and ask what is happening to improve the justice sector response to crimes of sexual violence.  The ACC insensitive claims unit and the CEDAW experience has me even more strongly convinced – this government will forget about rape and sexual abuse unless we tell them this is unacceptable to us.

Email Judith Collins and ask her where the Law Commission is at.  And cc in Jo Goodhew, if you believe that reporting on women’s lives should include how well our government is responding to and working to end sexual violence.

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