The United Nations committee on women’s rights has today backed a call for New Zealand to adopt a cross-party and long-term strategy to combat gender-based violence against women.
The call for a strategy to combat gender-based violence was made by the Human Rights Commission and NGOs to the United Nation's Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)in Geneva earlier this month. The Commission and NGOs were seeking support from CEDAW on a range of issues impacting women including gender-based violence, gender pay and employment inequality, data-collection and abortion law reform.
Support for a comprehensive prevention strategy to combat gender-based violence against women was one of a number of recommendations accepted by CEDAW in concluding observations released today.
CEDAW’s recommendations on gender violence effectively provide a road map for the Government to address family violence, one of this country’s most pressing human rights issues.
The Equal Employment Opportunities and Women’s Rights Commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue, said the recommendations from the Committee were a huge win for all New Zealand women.
“We went to Geneva with a focus on five main human rights issues after meeting with a wide variety of women’s groups up and down the country. Overwhelmingly, gender-based violence was the top issue New Zealand women wanted action on. The CEDAW Committee listened to us and today has made it very clear that a fresh perspective and an a-political response is needed to combat the alarmingly high level of gender-based violence in this country,” Dr Blue said.
CEDAW also addressed concerns raised at the Geneva meeting about New Zealand’s Family Court which is already the subject of a review commissioned by the Minister of Justice.
“Like the members of CEDAW, I was shocked and appalled at the evidence provided by NGOs on the crisis within New Zealand's Family Court. The lack of trust and insensitivity to women victims of domestic violence was extraordinary from a Court that should be a safe and just place for women and children,” Dr Blue said.
CEDAW recommendations called on the New Zealand Government to upgrade the Ministerial Review into the Family Court to a Royal Commission of Inquiry with an independent mandate to engage in a wide-ranging evaluation of the drawbacks and obstruction of justice and safety for women inherent in the Family Court system. The Committee also asked the New Zealand government to consider renewing its invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, which could be complementary to this.
A review of women’s rights in New Zealand is normally held by CEDAW every four years. However, in this case, the Committee wants to see a progress report from the New Zealand Government in two years’ time on the urgent issues of: gender-based violence; the Family Court; removing abortion from the Crimes Act; resourcing of the Human Rights Commission; and amending the Immigration Act 2009 to allow the Human Rights Commission to process complaints from migrants.