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March 16, 2009 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Willy Wong-Ka in the VUWSA factory

Before a subdued but otherwise interested audience, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Pansy Wong, and Green MP Catherine Delahunty addressed the tyranny of violence towards women at last Wednesday’s Student Representative Council meeting.

In response to the launch of the “Thursdays in Black” campaign, the two members of parliament spoke at length about the issues surrounding violence towards women, and mooted solutions, both practical and ideological, to the issue.

“One area where too little progress has been made is in reducing the terrible toll of family violence and sexual violence,” Wong said.

“As Minister of Women’s Affairs, I am strongly committed to significantly reducing the terrible toll of family and sexual violence, both of which impact heavily on women.”

“This commitment is shared by the rest of Government and I can assure you that it will remain near the top of our agenda because it is an issue that affects every New Zealander.”

The National-led Government introduced the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill under urgency last year, which grants police the ability to issue on-the-spot protection orders in cases of domestic violence.

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty admitted reluctance on the part of her party in voting for the bill.

“We supported the domestic violence bill that was put through by the National party because we do think it is better than nothing, but it doesn’t mean much if it is being implemented by a police force whose track record of dealing with violence issues towards women is not good,” Delahunty said.

“Domestic protection orders are part of the story, but they’re not the whole story.”

Both Wong and Delahunty reiterated that legislative changes were insufficient in curbing domestic violence in New Zealand.

“Research has shown that many women stay in abusive relationships because they are too scared to leave, which keeps the power firmly in the offenders’ hands, which means it is often up to friends and family to speak out on behalf of the victim,” said Wong.

“Domestic violence is a serious problem that will take serious commitment by every man, woman and child in this nation to no longer let our women suffer at the hands of their partners.”

“Violence towards women is not about cleaning a nasty bit of our national psyche, it’s about our fundamental relationships, and how we actually relate to each other,” Delahunty said.

“Power is about power over or power with, and what we want to do with the Greens is power with, not power over.”

Latest numbers by Statistics New Zealand showed that the number of violent offences committed by men towards women had increased from 7587 in 2006 to 8764 in 2007, a trend Delahunty condemned.

“If you look at women’s refuges, they are overflowing,” she said.

“We may have women in powerful positions, but it means jackshit if rape and violence continues at the level it’s continuing in New Zealand.”

Wong offered a more placid indictment.

“It is a problem that can be solved if we all work together, the sooner the message of ‘It’s not okay’ rings true in all New Zealanders’ ears, the sooner we will be able to stand up to domestic violence,” she said.

Both members opened the floor to questions, and Ms. Wong was asked if she identified herself as a feminist. Ms. Delahunty was more candid in her self-assessment.

“I am a feminist. The reason I’m a feminist is we have the highest rate of violence for many, many countries,” she said.

“We’re not leading the world, we’re trailing the world.”

The World Council of Churches started the Thursdays in Black campaign in the 1980s as a peaceful protest against rape and violence towards women.

In New Zealand, supporters are encouraged to wear black clothing on Thursdays in solidarity for the victims of violence and rape. Funds raised from Thursdays in Black merchandise go towards organisations such as Rape Crisis and Women’s Refuge.


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