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Switch of focus in Human Rights Com.'s activities

Media Release
2 November 2000

Switch of focus in Human Rights Commission’s activities - annual report

The Human Rights Commission has published its Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2000. The report notes that in many ways the year was an unusual one.

The Commission has been heavily involved in the steps Government is taking to raise its level of compliance with the Human Rights Act.

Commissioners said they looked forward to a strengthening of New Zealand’s human rights culture through the Associate Minister of Justice’s Re-evaluation of Human Rights Protections.

One major change has been the switch of focus from complaints to education, as well as an emphasis on examining systemic human rights issues. A total of 9,350 people attended educational presentations over the year, while the toll free Infoline information service dealt with 10,100 enquiries about human rights.

Within the complaints area there has been a greater emphasis on reducing the number of complaints that require full investigation. In the year to 30 June 2000, 337 complaints were received. This was an 11 per cent increase on the 300 received in the preceding year (see tables below).

Half of all complaints related to employment, while just over a quarter were in the provision of goods, facilities and services. While sexual harassment complaints, at 61, showed a decrease from the 77 received last year, disability complaints, at 94, showed an increase from last year’s 84. Age discrimination (46), sex discrimination (39), employment status (35) and family status (29) complaints made up the bulk of the other unlawful discrimination complaints.
Almost a quarter of complaints were settled without progressing to a formal opinion being formed by the Complaints Division (CD). This level of settlement reflects the Commission’s determination to favour early resolution wherever possible. Forty five per cent of complaints that were within the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Act were mediated to a resolution.
Other improvements to the process achieved over the year included the establishment of a Directions Team, which meets weekly to assess and give directions on all complaints. The CD now issues a provisional opinion on most complaints that have been investigated and reported to it. The opinion is sent to the party disadvantaged by it with an invitation to comment.
The 20 complaints that were referred to the Proceedings Commissioner were a substantial reduction on the 42 complaints referred in the previous reporting year. Nevertheless, the number of matters referred to the Proceedings Commissioner remains at a high level reflecting major growth in the enforcement function. It is pleasing to record that 34 files, many referred in previous reporting periods, were closed in the 12 months. Consequently, the total number of matters before the Proceedings Commissioner was almost halved.
Twelve of the matters finalised were settled by the Proceedings Commissioner prior to the commencement of proceedings. Of the 14 proceedings filed at the Complaints Review Tribunal, five were settled before the hearing. The Proceedings Commissioner was successful in all eight Tribunal hearings.
One recent issue of concern is the trafficking of women under false pretences to this country to work in the sex industry. The Commission established a system for those who wish to escape such involuntary servitude, which has been used successfully by a small number of women. A range of contemporary issues affecting the rights of women is now being addressed through the appointment of a Women’s Advocate.

Complaints Showing Ground and Section of the Act - 1 July 1999 to 30 June 2000

AGE
DISABILITY
SEXUAL HARASSMENT
SEX
MARITAL STATUS
RELIGIOUS / ETHICAL BELIEF
POLITICAL OPINION
SEXUAL ORIENTATION
EMPLOYMENT STATUS
FAMILY STATUS
TOTAL
Employment (S22) 21 33 44 26 3 3 4 18 15 167
Pre-employment Details (S23) 9 2 1 3 4 2 21
Goods and Services (S46) 13 32 7 10 4 1 6 10 6 89
Housing, Accommodation (S53) 1 1 2 1 1 3 2 11
Qualifying Bodies (S38) 1 1
Access to Public Places (S42) 8 1 2 1 12
Vocational Training (S40) 2 2 1 5
Education (S57) 14 1 1 2 1 3 22
Victimisation (S66) 3 3
Partnerships (S36)
Organisations of Employees/employers (S37) 1 1
Other 2 3 5
TOTAL 46 94 61 39 1 12 9 11 35 29 337

Note: the Race Relations Office deals with complaints involving discrimination by reason of race, colour, national or ethnic origin.

The most significant types of discrimination and areas where they happen are:

Complaints by Discrimination Type (Grounds)

PERCENTAGE OF ALL COMPLAINTS 99/00 CF 98/99
Disability 28% 26%
Sexual harassment 18% 24%
Age 14% 13%
Sex 12% 14%
Employment status 11% 5%
Family status 9% 9%
Sexual orientation 3% 2%
Religious belief 3% 2%
Other 2% 5%

Complaints by Area

PERCENTAGE OF ALL COMPLAINTS 99/00 CF98/99
Employment 50% 58%
Goods & services 27% 17%
Education 7% 6%
Pre-employment 6% 7%
Access to public places, facilities 4% 2%
Other 6% 10%

Complaints 1999 – 2000

New complaints
received
337

Complaints current
at start of year
162 Complaints under
process
449 Complaints current
at end of year
151

Complaints closed
348


Closed within jurisdiction
317
No jurisdiction
31


Settled without
investigation
78
Investigated with
following outcomes
81
Discontinued by
Complainant
22
Discontinued without full investigation
136

Substance
31
No substance
34 Cannot be
established
16

To order a copy of the Annual Report please call 0800 496 877.

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