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Women Experiencing Discrimination

12 December 2006

Women Experiencing Discrimination

The New Zealand NGO Women Experiencing Discrimination report 2006[1] has been submitted to the United Nations by the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ). The UN Committee will consider this Report alongside the Government CEDAW Report. The NZ Government has been notified that they are tentatively scheduled to report to the UN CEDAW Expert Committee at the 39th CEDAW Session, which is currently set for 23 July to 10 August 2007.

"NCWNZ has been pleased to facilitate the process where over 90 national and local organisations contributed information to the Alternate Report," said Christine Low, National President NCWNZ. "It is always a challenge to reach consensus when a large number of diverse groups are involved in a process of this nature. However the organisations valued the opportunity to have their views incorporated into a review of the discrimination of women in New Zealand over the past four years."

A key concern for women is the prevalence and nature of violence in New Zealand society. Many women believe that more women are disadvantaged by violence than by legal, financial or political factors.

Domestic violence is cited in the report as the fifth leading cause of death from injury for New Zealand women, with 50% of all homicides of women being committed by the woman's partner or ex-partner.

The report also identifies that there is under-reporting of violence against disabled women living in institutions, the incidents of drug-rape and date rape, and domestic violence in same-sex relationships.

"It comes as no surprise to NCWNZ that women identified violence as a key issue in respect to the Convention's Article 5 on Social and Cultural patterns," said Christine Low. "A recent internal survey conducted by the Council resulted in the majority of member groups identifying violence and the lack of safety in the community as of critical importance. Some women feel their safety is under siege and that if any progress is being made, it is pedestrian at best." The Ministry of Social Development reported in 2005 that 45.2% of women feel unsafe in their communities.

New Zealand's 47th ranking (out of 57 countries surveyed) for economic opportunity[2] was based on duration of maternity leave, percentage of wages paid during that leave, and number of women in managerial positions. It also included the wage inequalities between men and women in private sector employment.

New Zealand's low ranking in this area is in striking contrast to its ranking for economic participation (16th). Women's involvement in paid work has increased enormously, but they are clearly not being rewarded for their efforts, in terms of pay and promotion, at anything like the same levels as men, particularly in the private sector. This inequality is growing, as the widening gender pay gap shows.

"The gender pay gap remains a major, palpable frustration for women," said Christine Low. "It makes little difference what sector women work in; they are still being paid less for work of equal value. The impact of the gender pay gap acts as a long-term barrier for the advancement of women, they struggle to save for retirement, they have to "go without" to repay their student loans and at a societal level, it sends the message that they are worth less than their male counterparts."

New Zealand women do not yet have access to the level of conditions and services they require if they are to undertake the "double shift" of bearing and raising children and carrying out paid work.

Many women are also concerned about the lack of recognition for their voluntary contribution to New Zealand society. The role of parent is increasingly coming under pressure as social and economic policy and incentives are offered to encourage women to cease being home-makers. While women support the creation of options, i.e. the lifting of the financial load so they can return to work sooner, the lack of equivalent incentives, so they can remain with their children till school-age does not create "true" options.

"The long-term implications for social cohesion, which is a critical element needed for sustainable development, with parents playing a lesser role in the early development of their children can only be speculated," said Christine Low. "Community-spiritedness and knowing your neighbours are rapidly eroding."

Women are also concerned about the lack of funding to implement the Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy, released in 2001. There is also concern that sexual and reproductive health remains a low priority objective in the New Zealand Health Strategy, and that it is not a focus of the Primary Health Strategy, despite the linkages to high rates of cervical cancer (particularly for Maori), ectopic pregnancy, abortion and infertility.

In 2003, the chlamydia rate in New Zealand was six times higher than that reported in Australia and four times higher than in the UK (excluding Scotland) [3]. The rate among Maori and Pasifika peoples is four times higher than in the rest of the population.

Positives recorded in the report include the removal of interest from student loans, the progress made via the nomination database and the appointment of an Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner with the Human Rights Commission.

The Women Experiencing Discrimination report covers the four year period up to March 2006. An addendum to the report will be prepared next year in advance of NGO representatives appearing before the Expert Committee in late July 2007. The addendum will update the current content of the report as well as provide coverage on new issues that have emerged, since March 2006. Areas already identified include accessibility and effectiveness of Protection Orders, new information on the gender pay gap and women's participation in the top echelons of governance and public life, and any relevant legislative updates.

The report can be ordered from NCWNZ at a cost of $18, with delivery in the New Year. The Council regrets it has to charge for the report, however despite applications being made, no funding could be secured to complete this valuable work.


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