MPs Group to address sexual and reproductive health
Parliamentary Group works to address sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific region
Hon Poto Williams, NZPPD Chair
Earlier this month, the New Zealand Government passed innovative legislation allowing victims of domestic violence to take paid leave from their job. This thoughtful, new approach is in response to New Zealand having some of the world’s highest rates of violence against women; it is estimated that one-third of all women will experience violence from an intimate partner over the course of their life. Moreover, the majority of those who experience it do not report it to the police. The situation in New Zealand needs attention and this legislation is one step towards addressing the larger problem.
Unfortunately, for our neighbours in Pacific Island countries, the evidence on domestic and sexual violence indicates a dire situation there as well. Some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the world are from the Pacific with several countries reporting rates of 60-68%. This data – and our connection to the Pacific – is the reason that the New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) have violence against women in the Pacific region as a key focus. This cross-party group celebrates its 20th anniversary of working to address several issues relevant to sexual and reproductive health and rights with an evidence-based approach. To enhance understanding among those in Parliament, the group has hosted several open hearings including one on violence against women and children which yielded recommendations taken up by the Labour Party.
With the recent news from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of an increase to overseas development funding of $714 million as part of the “Pacific reset,” we find ourselves at a critical moment. Providing safe, accessible and voluntary family planning has wide-reaching social and economic benefits and furthers gender equality and women’s empowerment. While New Zealand has a proud history of supporting women and girls’ rights, including sexual and reproductive health activities in the Pacific, our official development assistance (ODA) contributions fall well short of the International Parliamentarians’ Conference (IPCI) commitment to allocate 10 per cent of ODA to population assistance.
Under the Pacific reset then, it is now our job as MP members of NZPPD to ensure that our country’s response under the reset supports Pacific governments to address pressing issues in the region such as violence against women, unplanned pregnancy, access to services and the sexual and reproductive health of men. We also have the role to ensure that New Zealand partner’s with Pacific governments to support their strategies for improved social and economic benefits including gender equality and women’s empowerment.