In November 2022 the Policy Group for Criminal Justice led by Corinne McIlwrath were in the process of preparing a document on sexual violence and family violence for Minister of Justice Kiritapu Allan. The Minister has responsibility for the formulation of justice policy and for the administration of law courts, and the Policy Group is working to craft new legislation that will update the Crimes Act 1961.
The Auckland Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children (ACSWC) together with the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges (NCIWR) reached out to McIlwrath to provide additional insights into issues specifically regarding stalking and harassment. They worked also with members of the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ). Key authors for the paper submitted to McIlwrath were Alison Towns (ACSWC), Natalie Thorburn (NCIWR) and Bernice Williams, a member of the NCWNZ Influence and Decision-making Action Hub. The Policy Group's recommendations to the Minister included the joint paper as an appendix.
An excerpt from the paper's summary follows:
Stalking is unwanted repetitive and persistent intrusions into a person’s life: it is a form of abuse that is a risk factor for physical and sexual violence, including death. Even if a single action appears trivial, stalking is a pattern of behaviour, which a reasonable person would find distressing, or objectionable or frightening. Women are disproportionately affected by stalking, particularly young women, disabled women, rainbow women and likely wāhine Māori, while migrants and ethnic minorities may experience unique forms of stalking. The most dangerous, and persistent stalking is conducted by ex-partners of women, with child contact being a particular risk factor. The targeting of women participating in public discourse (politicians, journalists, celebrities) may dissuade others from speaking out, preventing women from contributing their expertise and thought leadership to public discourse. Protecting people from stalking is in line with Aotearoa New Zealand’s international human rights obligations but our piecemeal legislation is out of step with comparator countries’ laws to protect women and others from stalking. The options police currently have for responding to partner stalking (for example) do not hold stalkers accountable or make victims safer. Civil orders have been found to be ineffective with stalkers, some of whom use the Civil Court and restraining order processes as further opportunities for stalking. Stalking must be recognised as a crime rather than a civil dispute and be named as a crime in the Crimes Act 1961.
The full paper submitted to the Policy Group can be accessed here (.pdf file).
We will continue to monitor the progress of this initiative and continue to provide additional insights as the Ministry crafts new legislation to more fully address our concerns deriving from the virulent and consistent misogyny evident today.
To read more articles from The Circular (Nov-Dec 2022) issue 638, click on the tag below.