Oral Statement to the CEDAW Committee, United Nations, Geneva

Statement from SHAKTI and NZPC to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee 70​th​ Session

9th July 2018 SHAKTI

New Zealand has the highest reported rates of domestic violence in the OECD. According to government sources, 76% of incidents are NOT reported to the police . 1 1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime. I’d like to raise five concerns of urgency related to violence against women.

1. Of late, the statutory government agencies have been driving a language change around domestic violence, towards the concept of “family harm”. Terms like `predominant aggressor’ and `mutual participant’ are being used within government agencies which is filtering down to how they interact with victims and NGOs. We are deeply concerned that such a move is an attempt to diminish the severity of the problem and mask the gendered nature of domestic violence. We believe this is also an attempt on the part of the Police to deflate statistics. NGOs advocating for the use of the `gender-based violence’ terminology are being silenced by such statutory bodies like the police and discriminated in terms of high risk victim referrals being made to them. This situation has rendered women, particularly migrant and refugee women, highly vulnerable.

2. There is structural discrimination against migrant and refugee women in domestic violence responses. We have witnessed the Police disbelieving women facing forced marriages and failing to take necessary action to ensure their safety. We see a general lack of consultation from the New Zealand police in their changing responses to domestic violence and we feel unsafe.

3. Forced and underage marriages continue to occur in New Zealand, despite the CEDAW Committee Recommendations to the State to intervene in the last two
Concluding Observations. Madam Chair, this is the third time we are bringing up this issue. We appreciate and acknowledge the legislative proposals currently under consideration, however the progress is extremely slow and the intervention support to victims and prevention projects engaged in by NGOs continue to be unresourced and unsupported.

4. Institutionalised discrimination and marginalization of migrant and refugee NGOs continue to prevail, through inadequate allocation of resources by government departments keeping NGOs working in this sector constantly poor and overworked. We believe this is deliberate exploitation by the government of the NGO sector, which is a largely feminised sector.
5. NZPC – New Zealand Prostitutes Collective: ​There is evidence that migrant women who have left violent relationships with New Zealand citizens, through necessity have found economic independence by working as sex workers. They have experienced further hardship because although eligible to do other work they cannot work legally as sex workers because of section 19 of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which was inserted to prevent trafficking.

Thank you.

[​NOT TO BE READ OUT] – For further consideration by the committee
Recommendations for state implementation within next 3 years:
Recommendation 1:​ The government needs to adopt language that addresses domestic violence as gender-based and that captures the severity of the problem. The government should resource gender-based training from specialised organisations to address gender-based violence for all levels of the Justice system including police and courts.
Recommendation 2: ​We request the committee to recommend the NZ government to speed up the process of implementing legislative changes and ensure adequate resourcing to support prevention and intervention services to address forced marriage in New Zealand.

[Context for Recommendation 3: New Zealand is supposed to be a treaty-based nation, adopting a bicultural framework. It recognises two main groups: Māori (indigenous) and tauiwi (predominant group being ​Pākehā
​ , New Zealand European). Under this framework, migrants and refugees come within “tauiwi”. As a group, we believe we are barely visible and our needs and aspirations are not adequately reflected within government policies, operational frameworks
including resource allocation. The double discrimination and marginalisation continues to prevail and keeps women vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation. Migrant and refugee women face marginalisation and discrimination within their own groups and within wider tauiwi population.]
Recommendation 3:​ We request the committee to recommend to the New Zealand government to adopt anti-discriminatory legislation to protect the rights and interests of migrant and refugee women of colour who consistently face double discrimination based on gender and ethnicity.
Recommendation 4:​ We request the government to provide equitable resourcing and funding targeted for migrant and refugee women’s organisations to enable greater access to crisis support services.

Case Studies:

*Names have been changed to maintain anonymity.

Case Study to exemplify the police response using the `family harm’ concept (2018)

Kiran Kaur* had been married for 5 years to a New Zealand citizen through an arranged marriage. Despite being in New Zealand for 5 years, she was still on a work permit as her husband had decided not to sponsor her residency and instead get her to keep working so that she could compensate for the inadequate dowry given to him by her parents. A few weeks into the marriage, the abuse became physical and during one such incident he threw her out of their home. The neighbour called the police and she reported physical bruising on the face, bite-marks on the arm, cigarette butt burn marks, sexual violence and dowry harassment. The police referred her to an immigrant group which engages in reconciliation and which toes the police line of `family harm’. At the first counselling session, she was informed that the counsellor had spoken to her husband and that he was happy to reconcile. He said he preferred that rather than go through the court process. Kiran was shocked as she had anticipated that she would finally have an opportunity to have her story of violence and abuse heard and secure justice for herself. She had been worried about reporting the abuse to the police earlier, as her husband had threatened to deport her if she did. Eventually she decided not to continue with that agency and went back to living with him. However the abuse escalated and she decided not to report to the police. She learnt about Shakti and called us and subsequently secured a protection order.

Forced marriage case study of police response (2017)

Nadia* is 21 years old of Pakistani background and had been in NZ for two years on a student visa. Throughout her life, she experienced psychological, emotional, verbal and physical abuse predominantly by her father and brothers. Her father is an international diplomat so her family is not “uneducated.” Once her parents found out she had a boyfriend, and that he was Indian, the 3
control escalated; her family forced her to call him and break up with him and when she refused, they responded with physical violence. A few days later, her Dad told her that the family would be going to Yemen so Nadia could marry someone much older than her. Nadia had no desire to marry this man and was scared for her life. A few hours before her flight, she posted on social media how she was scared, and that she needed help, because her flight was only a few hours away. A police intelligence officer who happened to see the post then contacted Shakti.

When our crisis pick up team called the police to go with them, they said they didn’t have the resources to do so and did not think that a 21 year old could be forced to leave the country and be forced to marry. ​Our crisis pick up team ended up going without a police escort and put themselves and Nadia at risk​.​ Nadia ended up running down the road with her suitcase and jumping into our car as her brother tried to follow her down the road in his car. After we picked her up, she was taken to the local police station to make a complaint, but​ police refused to take her complaint because they didn’t think an adult could be forced to marry​.
After we advocated with the police intelligence officer who referred Nadia to us about this and he contacted the head constable of that police station and they ended up apologising and sending someone to our centre to take her statement. The statement took 5-6 hours, and the officer who took the statement seemed like he didn’t believe her or take her seriously, and​ the complaint never went forward in any way.