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New Zealand has passed the Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Bill, allowing family violence victims to apply for ten days paid leave from work. The private member’s bill was passed on June 25th, winning by a mere 6 votes. Victims do not have to prove the abuse, and the workplace is required to support them during this ten day period, which may include changing their work location and contact information. The legislation recognises the New Zealand statistics showing that the days following a domestic violence victim leaving their abuser is the time when they are in most danger. Therefore, the Government is ensuring that victims have the time and financial support to remove themselves from unsafe domestic situations. Green Party MP Jane Logie created the bill, using her experience from working in Woman’s Refuge to generate a forward solution to New Zealand’s domestic violence issue, one that affects half a million New Zealanders. She first introduced the bill in 2016, and it will now come into effect on the 1st of April next year.
When endorsing Logie and her Bill to Parliament, Green Party MP and Government Spokesperson for Human Rights Golriz Ghahraman said “being violence-free is a fundamental human right. Having to choose between being in employment and being violence-free is discrimination. It is one of the many, many ways we blindly discriminate against victims of abuse.”
New Zealand has long been aware of their domestic violence issue, but acting on it and even just talking about it is long overdue. Not only is this bill important in its content, but it is also vital for what it stands for: New Zealand is no longer tolerating domestic violence, and those affected by it are not alone. New Zealand’s Act and National parties voted against the bill, believing that covering the leave would be too expensive for small businesses, and that it may give employers an excuse to not hire those assumed to be domestically abused. However, during their nine-year governance from 2008-2017, the country was constantly shown that domestic violence was not a priority to the National government. According to Stuff, $800,000 was cut from services vital in providing support for domestic violence victims, including Woman’s Refuge, in 2013. This came just two years following the United Nations’ call for New Zealand to address the issue after their 2011 UN Women report showed the country’s domestic violence rates were higher than any other in the OECD. Time will tell if Act and National’s apprehensions are valid; however, their opportunity to formulate a better alternative has passed. Therefore, Logie should only be commended for her work that has the potential to create progressive, life-saving change.
Domestic violence kills 30-35 Kiwis every year, making up half of all New Zealand homicides. The anti-domestic violence campaign It’s Not Okay reports that the issue costs the New Zealand economy between 4.1 and 7 billion NZD every year. According to the Guardian, the only other known domestic violence employment laws around the world include the Philippines Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, and provincial law in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.
New Zealand is considered a safe country in many aspects. Come April 2019, we will be able to see if the support of the government’s bill and the cooperation of workplaces will help this reputation to finally be reflected within Kiwi homes.