Are policy makers paying any attention to women’s needs?
The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s attempt to combat modern slavery in New Zealand without considering forced prostitution is yet more evidence the Government urgently needs to mandate the use of a gender policy tool for all agencies, says Te Wāhi Wāhine o Tāmaki Makaurau manager Leonie Morris.
“It’s outrageous that MBIE has messed up its trafficking action plan so badly, by focussing almost solely on the forced labour and migration of men in industries such as fishing, even though in one year alone 130 women disclosed to Women’s Refuge that they had been forced to sell sex against their will by a partner,” says Leonie.
“Outrageous but – when you consider officialdom’s record over the last few months – not surprising.”
In other recent instances of sexism by government authorities, Treasury refused to consider the impact of the government’s COVID spend on women when asked to by then-Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter, while more recently, the Tenancy Tribunal was found to be holding women responsible for property damage caused by their violent abusers. To make matters worse, Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing NZ) was among the landlords taking abused women to the tribunal for such damage.
Sexual exploitation and trafficking can be an extreme form of domestic violence.
“We urge the government to make the prevention of violence against women and children one of their core, key priorities across all decision-making,” says Leonie. “Without strong leadership, the oppression of women, particularly those in disadvantaged circumstances, will worsen in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
Leonie says as part of the solution, the government should require all its agencies to use “Bringing Gender In”, a Ministry for Women policy development tool highlighting intersectional gender impacts.
“Real agency culture change is required,” says Leonie. “The ‘Bringing Gender In’ tool can’t do that on its own, but it can help start some of the conversations so desperately required to achieve real safety for women.”