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Triad Of Evil Starts With Bullying On The Marae

Donna Awatere Huata

Wife bashing, gangs and marae protocol are intrinsically linked, ACT Maori Affairs Spokesman Donna Awatere Huata, MP, argues in this article.

Today on marae around New Zealand, the bullying of women is championed.

I attended Waitangi marae on February 6. Protocol dictated that I sit on the floor with my female colleagues while males occupied the benches in front of us. The purpose of this ritual was to degrade, and it succeeded.

Marae increasingly ban women from speaking. We solely provide relish for the men's oratories. Yet today's male speakers lack intellectual rigour, overdose on ritual, and are dead boring.

The psycho-spiritual weapon of tapu is abused by men to threaten harm to a woman and her children should she challenge male authority.

These rituals and protocols make it clear that a woman's place is on the floor with her head bowed.

Male and female Maori elders uphold a system which stymies individual self-worth and intimidates the young. Rituals reduce Maori females to chattels and underpin the existence of family abuse and gangs.

In the past decade, many marae have adopted, embraced and preserved customs that humiliate women and oppress the young. This amounts to psychological bullying. It is no less brutal to the spirit than physical violence, and is a factor in the prevalence of domestic violence.

Some women involuntarily submit to these rules. Others support the protocols out of a misguided desire to protect our "culture". The "culture" excuse is a tired, clichéd joke. Päkehä history is similarly littered with shameful protocols and practices, but these have mainly been discarded. If female genital mutilation were a Maori ritual, we surely would have had the sense to abandon it long ago.

Historically, sexism to this extent was never part of our culture. Maori women traditionally held places of rank, honour and responsibility. Men of dubious mana have manipulated history to erase Maori women's leadership in peace and war.

My ancestor Hinetapora was a chief of the Ruatoria marae Mangahanea. When a vengeance party from a neighbouring tribe attacked her people, she sent everyone away, knowing that her death would be of sufficient weight to save Mangahanea. Armed with a taiaha, she alone met the young war leader Tamahae. She was defeated. When Tamahae was scorned for killing an old woman he replied, "She is enough. Although there is only one of her, she represents thousands."

New Zealand did not bestow emancipation upon Maori women. We inherited that honour and responsibility from our own culture. Yet today we seem determined to bully Maori woman. There is no integrity and no future in this form of "culture."

A triad of evil exists between the rituals of the marae, family abuse and the predominance of gangs. Our protocols are not solely to blame, but they fortify the existence of sexism and violent behaviour.

Family abuse occurs when men are instilled with the belief that their whims are more important than the safety of any other person. We have mourned the deaths of Hinewaoriki Rerenoa Karaitiana-Matiaha and James Whakaruru, but we haven't eliminated our protocols that rely on - and promote - the denigration of women and children.

Gangs such as the Mongrel Mob and Black Power are based on male dominance and bullying. Males wear jackets and boots to psychologically intimidate the community, and treat women like dirt. This is consistent with the worldview we maintain on the marae.

Until we fix our protocols, we will continue to add to the roll call of battered children and abused women. Their blood sullies the palms of every Maori leader perpetuating the belief that male power is sacrosanct and that violence over the weak is their right.


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