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The 25th November – White Ribbon Day

Media Statement

The 25th November – White Ribbon Day

“New Zealand must do more to prevent violence against women”, says Rae Julian, National President of UNIFEM NZ, in a statement to mark White Ribbon Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

UNIFEM NZ applauds the work of the Women’s Refuge Movement who have worked for decades with limited funding, many giving hours of voluntary time to help those women who need protection from violent partners. They continually have to raise money for their activities throughout the country while the Government gives millions to cycleways and politicians’ housing.

We also recognise the extraordinary efforts by the rape crisis services, who are determined to end violence through support, awareness and prevention programmes

In more recent years, men have been taking responsibility for their violent behaviour. It is noteworthy that many of the activities today, including men’s breakfasts in Wellington and Auckland and a sponsored motor bike ride are led by men’s anti-violence groups and co-ordinated through the Families Commission.

Today also marks the start of the annual international 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It runs from November 25th to December 10th (Human Rights Day). Hundreds of organisations around the world will be involved in activities ranging from media programmes, to demonstrations, to conferences, exhibitions and performances. New Zealand and UNIFEM members will be playing a role as well.

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In New Zealand, however, all activities are run by non-governmental or quasi-governmental organisations. The Government’s record in these issues is less praise-worthy. In 2007 we received a report from the United Nations Committee on Women that included adverse comments on New Zealand’s progress towards the elimination of violence against women.

The Committee reported to the UN its “concern that, apparently, there has been a climate change and ‘backlash’ against the recognition and promotion of women’s human rights” in New Zealand. They called for actions “to ensure that all violence against women is effectively prosecuted and adequately punished”.

Specialised training was recommended for the judiciary, public officials, law enforcement personnel and health service providers on issues of violence against women, and improved data collection and research to provide appropriate interventions to end the violence. Potential trafficking was an area for concern.

The Committee also reported its concern about the low rate of prosecutions for crimes against women, “particularly Maori, Pacific, and minority women” and called for improved legal services to women and a focus on the reasons for the decreasing numbers of protection orders granted to victims of domestic violence.

Little notice appears to have been taken of these recommendations. UNIFEM is starting a project to find out what has been done and to urge action, especially before the next report is due in 2010.

“The lives and health of women should be considered precious by all of us. The Government must take these issues seriously – it cannot all be left to the NGOs”, concluded Rae Julian.


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