Some good, some bad, and some just plainly wrong, 2015 has been a big year for bills that have the potential to greatly affect women’s lives in New Zealand. Here’s a few of my favourites, for better or for worse:
The New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams issued a government proposal that has the potential to better our country’s current domestic violence response laws. Titled “Strengthening New Zealand’s Legislative Response to Family Violence”, the paper was issued in August this year and has been deemed one of the most forward actions in 20 years to stem NZ’s domestic violence problem. The paper proposes many changes to the current law, but one in particular is that it will “empower police or an approved non-government organisation or iwi service provider to apply for a protection order on a victim’s behalf”. This means that the police or organisations like Women’s Refuge can apply for protection orders when the victim is too afraid of a perpetrator to apply for an order herself. The paper also proposed that people could refer themselves or others for counselling and non-violence services at no cost. At the moment these services are only free if the person is in a court case or other approved circumstance.
Young Labour put forward a really exciting proposal to ensure that there is access to hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery for trans people in New Zealand (and that it be publicly funded). This bill passed at two Labour regional party conferences. It was when it seemed that the party may need to vote on the policy that things started getting weird. Labour leader Andrew Little took the proposal as a personal attack on his own gender identity and used the subsequent media limelight to make sure we all knew that he is “quite happy with his gender”. After all, a bill shouldn’t be considered unless it directly influences the party’s cis male leader, right?
One of my favourite attempts to return New Zealand’s women’s rights to the Dark Ages came from National MP Chester Burrows in the form of a potential new bill that would mean no under-age person could obtain an abortion without parental consent. While in an ideal world a young woman facing this decision would have access to peers that she could talk to and voice her thoughts, this simply isn’t the reality for a lot of girls. I have said it before and I will continue to say it (predominantly to my unwaveringly conservative father)—forcing someone to carry a child to full term is physical, mental and emotional abuse. The only person who should be making decisions about your body is you. This has to be the year’s strangest attempt at policing women’s bodies and decisions.
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A similar change was (unsurprisingly) unsuccessfully sought in 2004.