Not the war on men you’re looking for

It’s headline news: Labour supports re-starting a Law Commission review initiated by Simon Power to investigate possible changes in our judicial system including the option of adopting an inquisitorial approach in cases of sexual violence. Shocking stuff!

Hang on, why is that headline news? Because the Herald and David Farrar have chosen to spin this story into a tale of Labour’s continued War On Men.

Tom Scott has helpfully illustrated the debate with a cartoon in which the personification of Justice is clearly asking for it with her slutty attire and manhating ways.

There are so many things I want to say but just can’t find the words for. The statistics are all out there: the utter everyday common-ness of sexual assault. The under-reporting. The horrifyingly low level of prosecutions, much less convictions. The trauma and pain that survivors go through on a routine basis just to get a smidgen of justice.

All I can really focus on are these two incredibly ignorant statements from DPF’s hysterical little post:

Bear in mind that even if you are married to them, that is not proof [of consent].

If it is what you say vs what they say, you will lose.

And all day today, I’ve seen men on Twitter and Facebook say things like “if this happens men will be afraid to be in a room with a woman without a witness!” or “what if my ex suddenly decides to attack me with a false accusation?” or “how can I possibly prove my innocence when it’s their word against mine?”

Here’s the thing, men. If those ideas horrify you, you need to understand one thing: that’s how women feel all the time. These are the thoughts we’re already having. The reality is that somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime – and that’s an overall statistic, because it’s far higher for women of colour, for example.

I can appreciate that when the only version of this story you hear is the David Farrar “Labour will murder everything you hold dear” spin, you might start to get worried, and you might decide to completely ignore the realities of how our justice system treats sexual violence (9% estimated reporting rate, 13% conviction rate, awesome!).

But the only thing Labour is guilty of is considering an expert, independent review of our justice system. That’s all.

On the other hand, after a day of reading awful, heartless comments like “this is just about protecting victims’ feelings” I have to say this. If it were the radical man-hating straw-feminist outrage that the Herald and DPF are trying to sell you, you know what? It’s about damn time that the people who commit sexual assault are held to account for their actions, and far beyond time that we stopped persecuting their victims by putting them in the impossible situation of proving they never consented.

(Hat-tip to DawgBelly: 1, 2)

Labour will end the farce of “voluntary” school donations

When I was little, I went to a very well-to-do decile 10 public primary school. The kind of place situated in a neighbourhood full of private schools and a little bit insecure about it. So we did our best to fit it, with assemblies every Friday at which the national anthem was sung in both English and te reo Māori, archaic uniforms (no pants for the girls!) and “fees”.

Hang on. I did say “public” primary school, didn’t I?

Yes, my public, state-funded primary school must have been one of the first to start referring to voluntary donations as “fees”. In the school newsletter, in letters home to my parents, and in conversations where teachers would pull aside nine-year-old children like myself and deliver a lecture about how we “hadn’t paid our fees”.

I felt terrible. I wasn’t paying my way! I was going to be expelled! You had to pay your fees! But my mother sat me down and explained that it wasn’t a fee. It was a donation. The fine print on the forms they sent me home with spelled it out … barely. They had no right to demand payment – and no right to bully a child with

Back then I was baffled (now I get outraged). It wasn’t a fee. So why was it called a fee? Why was my teacher checking names off a list and hectoring children to pay? Why to this day are schools engaging in bullying, stigmatising tactics like attaching tags to children’s bags to show who’s paid and who hasn’t?

Education is a basic human right, and every child deserves to receive the same basic level of it. It is criminal that schools put this kind of pressure on kids and their families – and more criminal that some of them probably have to due to chronic underfunding.

So imagine my righteous joy this morning to discover that the Labour Party agrees with me.

Labour will provide an annual grant of $100 per student to schools that stop asking parents for “voluntary” donations to help fund their day-to-day spending, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.

Like I said on Twitter, education needs to be meaningfully free. That means proper funding for our schools and an end to the farce of “voluntary donations”.

It takes a child to raise a country – so Tick for Kids

Overshadowed by the  political smears that have dominated the past few days, the Tick for Kids campaign was launched (video) to put our children at the centre of the election campaign.

In their media release supporting the campaign, the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services nailed the inequality issue:

NZCCSS is calling for government policies that lift the household income of vulnerable families so they can provide a healthy standard of living for their children. Policies such as paying a universal child benefit (e.g. by extending the In-Work Tax Credit to parents who are not in work) will help reduce child poverty. Policies like these make a contribution to reducing inequality and consequently lifting children out of poverty.

Other issues in the campaign are health, education, disability, housing and refugee and migrant children.

We know that the right can’t tackle these issues seriously. We’ve seen the situation for Kiwi children only get worse over the past five years.  Punitive crackdowns on beneficiary families, school closures, eroding incomes, refusing to expand the Food in Schools programme to all schools, running down early childhood education: the National-ACT-United Future-Maori coalition has been bad for kids.

Meanwhile, Labour has the BestStart policy to ensure all families with newborns get a basic level of support, restore funding to ECE and provide free antenatal classes. The Greens have a package of policies including after-school care and free GP visits for all under-18s. Mana believes feeding the kids should be our first priority as a nation.

And a leftwing coalition which reduces inequality, raises wages, rebuilds our social safety net and creates meaningful economic growth benefits all Kiwis and their families.

What do you reckon?

The dirtiest election campaign backfires

Yesterday looked like it was going to be a pretty bad day. There were scandalous revelations, blatant lies, unrestrained corruption gnawing at the very heart of the left. At least, that’s what we were promised.

But in the end what we got was a pretty standard, decade-old MP’s letter to Immigration asking about timeframes for a constituent(1) and a chorus cry from people who were never going to support anything Labour did anyway for Cunliffe to resign.

What happened next was interesting.

As the story developed – or rather, undeveloped, because a few pictures of someone’s wife standing next to Rick Barker is not the Zimmerman Telegram – I saw a lot of people on my (admittedly leftwing, Wellington-focused) Twitter feed coming together to call bullshit on the whole thing.

My personal favourite:

Even the satire accounts got into it:

And of course, there were posts at The Standard along the same lines: (2)

This isn’t a redemption story by any means. It’s not smart to issue categorical denials of something when you’ve been in politics for 15 years – but of course it’s also not smart to prevaricate and say you’ll check, because then Paddy Gower follows you around with a microphone all day demanding a yes/no answer (and check out the audio of Cunliffe’s stand-up yesterday for some fantastic examples of journos demanding an answer which will give them a good headline.)

But it is, really, a story of hope. Because you have to ask yourself just how desperate the Nats have to be if their first kinghit on Cunliffe is an 11-year-old pro-forma MP’s letter which says nothing more than “how long is this going to take, yo.”

I expect there’ll be more – I figured this election year was going to be nasty – but we know their game and we are refusing to play it.

(1) This is where Matthew Hooton demands Donghua Liu’s 2003 street address because what if David Cunliffe’s office drafted a letter about someone not from his actual electorate, huh? HUH? CORRUPTION!

(2) This is where the right accuses us of acting on orders from the Party. Nope, just a simple case of great minds thinking alike!

ETA: no, this morning’s poll isn’t great, but I defer to Dimpost’s analysis on that one.

The right to choose – early and safely

Abortion isn’t a topic which gets a lot of talk-space in New Zealand politics, but that may change this year with the Green Party unveiling a staunchly pro-choice Women’s Policy which includes decriminalisation, guaranteed access, and support for pregnant people no matter what they choose to do.

(I say “may” change because the political conversation is already plenty crowded, what with Banks, Internet Mana, Oravida, the TPPA, the GCSB, etc.)

In any case, it’s created a lot of discussion, especially over at The Standard. I’ve made a few rather long comments there, and have collected some key points here for future reference. It might be a little incoherent, so apologies in advance.

Is there support for abortion law reform?

Yes, if you just walk up to people out of the blue and say “Let’s kill babies in the womb, good times!!!” you’re probably going to get a negative reaction.

But, shockingly, that’s not how the discussion goes. Alison McCulloch did a road trip through NZ to promote her book and talk to people about abortion, and she said that many people were quite happy to discuss the issues, and very interested to learn that abortion is still a crime in NZ.

Every time I’ve seen decriminalisation raised in a political context (i.e. by the Greens this week and at Labour Party conferences) there’s always a few people who don’t realise it’s still a crime. Once we get that message more widespread, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of will to change.

Access in New Zealand

A lot of people use statistics about how many abortions are performed in NZ – about 15,000 per year – but it’s a really insincere argument. A number is a number. You can’t make any assumptions about whether that’s too many, not enough or just right until you look at the circumstances of people getting, or not getting, abortions.

Until Southern DHB began offering abortion services at Southland Hospital last year, anyone in Invercargill or Gore who wanted to get an abortion would have needed to travel to Christchurch and put aside 5-6 hours to be at the Lyndhurst clinic. Do you really think every unwilling pregnant person in Southland would have had the resources or ability to do that?

There are still no certifying consultants or abortion providers on the West Coast. Do you think it’s easy for a woman – who probably already has children, or work, or can’t tell other people her plans – to get over the Southern Alps for at least two certifying appointments and a procedure?

If you argue for the status quo to continue (or, like Judith Collins, that the status quo is “working”), you are arguing against pregnant people having a legal right to end their pregnancies, or the access to do so.

The 20-week limit

The number of abortions done at anywhere near 20 weeks are vanishingly small, and usually performed for serious medical reasons or because the pregnant person has been prevented from getting a termination sooner. This story from The Wireless is a good example of why that can happen. (The Wireless did a great series of articles on abortion in NZ for their “Free” theme.)

The meme that women are just lounging around the house pregnant and then go “Oh, whoops, I don’t want a baby after all” halfway through is an anti-abortion myth. Unfortunately, things go wrong in pregnancy and late-term abortions are sometimes required to save lives (yes, I know, how ironic 🙄 ) And sometimes – because of archaic, condescending processes like we currently have in NZ – people don’t have access to abortion services earlier.

The irony is that policies like the Greens’ will make it easier for people to get early medication abortions, long before there’s any argument to be made about whether or not “it’s a baby”. So if you really oppose “unnecessary” 20-week abortions, you should support this policy.

Supporting the Greens

To be a little harsh – if you were a Greens supporter already and this policy has changed your mind, I venture to suggest you hadn’t been paying a lot of attention to Green Party policy. They’ve had liberalising our abortion laws on the books for years.