The Government must develop a national plan to prevent and respond to family and sexual violence during and after a pandemic situation says Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo.
She made the comments in a written submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s investigation of violence against women during COVID-19.
“There did not appear to be a plan in place to deal with violence against women during a pandemic and this impacted the ability to prevent and respond appropriately to cases of domestic violence during the lockdown and beyond,” said Saunoamaali’i.
“A victim-centric plan ensuring continued inclusive and accessible services, both prevention and response would have provided targeted support to victims of violence and those at risk of violence during a pandemic.”
“This plan must involve the voices of Māori, Pacific disabled, ethnic and trans women and encourage collaboration at local levels between Police, Civil Defence, Iwi and other community groups in supporting whānau and at national levels.”
Saunoamaali’i commended NGOs who collaboratively worked together and with the Government, to improve support despite the absence of an overall plan.
“Such collaboration should not be lost as we recover from COVID-19 and move into the future.”
She told the United Nations it was also essential to ensure clear and accessible messaging was given to survivors and perpetrators of violence.
“Often women and perpetrators felt they couldn’t leave their bubble to seek assistance. Clear messaging is vital to ensure support is provided immediately for those at risk of violence,” said Saunoamaali’i.
COVID-19 had provided an opportunity to see Aotearoa New Zealand’s approach to prevention and tackling violence against women through a different lens.
“Moving forward, the Government must ensure there is adequate resourcing for victims as well as perpetrators of domestic violence to seek the help, support, and rehabilitation they need during and after a pandemic situation.”
Our submission to United Nations Special Rapporteur provided a snapshot of the information we received from predominantly civil society organisations and some government agencies relating to the impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence against women.
It covers the period from when the restrictions began on 26 March 2020 and the three months since this time. It is not a comprehensive account of the situation in Aotearoa New Zealand but highlights the lived experiences of women as witnessed by those grassroots organisations who supported them.