Monday, 6 February 2012

Barbaric to pretend violence against women isn't our problem to solve

King of the blog David Farrar's recent stuff opinion piece on immigration and women's rights on the surface does not make violence against women a Muslim issue:
I also think that one has to be careful not to attribute events like this to one religion. While forced marriages and honour killings are generally associated with so-called adherents of Islam, they are a tiny minority. Some might advocate that our immigration laws should discriminate on the basis of religion, but I do not.
Commendable, despite the headline to the piece, "Barbarism in NZ and Canada" which seemed to set it up in quite a different light.

What troubles me is his later framing of New Zealand as a country with certain fundamentals in place:
The rule of law, democracy, equal rights for women, separation of state and church, and free speech.
Making all new immigrants aware of the laws they are subject to once they live in Aotearoa New Zealand is undoubtedly a good thing, and something women's groups active in supporting migrant women in abusive relationships have been advocating for years. Too often, violent men deliberately hold immigration status as a threat over migrant women as a tool of abuse -but interestingly, there is no evidence these violent men are shadowy barbaric men of colour rather than New Zealand citizens. Win a wife, anyone?

But please let's not pretend we have anything like an equal society in terms of gender. We have a current MP, after all, who thinks Silly Little Girls are ruining the western world, by, you know, leaving the kitchen. Should we ask immigrants to read Richard Prosser's book as preparation for life in New Zealand? Or how about they listen to John Tamihere on the radio? Also an MP when he expressed his concern about "front bums" and the influence we have. Then there is legendary All Black Andy Haden, telling New Zealand that women only call rape when "the cheque bounces." Unfortunately dealing with the rape culture that piece of victim blaming provoked didn't happen on Kiwiblog - instead commentator after commentator said Andy Haden was just telling the truth, completely without challenge by Mr Farrar.

What about the domestic violence which provoked this opinion piece? New Zealand levels are epidemic. A woman is dying every five weeks here because her partner or ex-partner believes he has the right to kill her, often before killing himself. Was what Clayton Weatherston did "barbaric," or sadly a commonplace incident which received higher than usual media coverage because he was white, middle class, and entitled enough to believe if he spoke in court he could convince us that cutting pieces off a woman is justified if she's not respectful enough of your penis? Most perpetrators of domestic violence don't speak in court, they let our general New Zealand culture of victim-blaming and minimising violence speak for them.

In short, I agree with David Farrar that what happened to that young woman, forced marriage, is horrific and a violation of her rights. I agree with him that it's not acceptable or desirable to discriminate on the basis of religion in terms of immigration. I agree that discussing the laws and rights which protect New Zealand residents is important for everyone thinking of migrating here. And I'd add to that - especially appropriate to remember today - the context of Te Tiriti o Waitangi should be compulsory for all new waves of tangata tiriti.

But I don't agree we have consensus on issues of justice for women in Aotearoa, I don't agree we have anything like gender equity, and I'd enjoy seeing every incident of violence against women - regardless of the ethnicity of the perpetrator - attract as much concern and desire to shift cultural norms from New Zealand commentators as this one has.
A Silly Little Front Bum

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