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New Zealand First to Give Paid Leave to Victims of Domestic Abuse

According to the World Health Organization, one in three women around the world have experienced domestic violence. Whether that may be physical or sexual abuse, women around the world are being hurt by their loved ones. The country with some of the highest estimated rates of domestic violence in the world is New Zealand.

A 2017 report in the New Zealand Herald found that the country had the “worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world.” An estimated 525,000 New Zealanders are abused each year. Currently, police respond to calls of domestic violence abuse in New Zealand every 4 minutes, yet 80 percent of domestic abuse goes unreported.

The situation could be described as an endemic. Finally, some lawmakers in New Zealand are doing something about it.

In a vote of 63-57 on June 25th, New Zealand passed a law to protect victims of domestic violence. The law allows victims 10 days of paid leave from work, in addition to holiday and sick leave. The time off from work would allow for victims to leave their partners, find new places to live, and protect themselves and their children. Victims do not need to provide proof of their circumstances to their employer.

The bill was a result of seven years of work by MP Jan Logie of the left-leaning Green Party. Before becoming a politician, she worked for Women’s Refuge, a women’s rights and activism group.

While the bill was a success, it faced a lot of criticism from Logie’s fellow MPs. Some who initially supported the bill withdrew support later, claiming that the cost to small- and medium-sized businesses would be too large. They also claimed the law would dissuade employers from hiring those they think are domestic violence victims. Criticism arose surrounding the fact that Logie’s bill may not actually do much of anything at all.

“Jan Logie’s bill is not going to prevent or stop one domestic violence attack against a woman,” Mark Mitchell, the National Party’s justice spokesperson, told the BBC.

Other opposition came from supporters of Logie’s bill itself, but those who were still frustrated with the current status quo in New Zealand.

“Obviously we are happy and thrilled [about the bill] but in the scheme of things the struggle goes on,” said Holly Carrington, a spokeswoman for Shine, a charity helping victims of domestic abuse. “Our frontline staff are overwhelmed on a daily basis. We have dangerous, high-risk cases every day where the system is completely failing to protect them.”

Despite the criticism, Logie still teared up when her bill was passed. She believes the bill, which will come into effect April of next year, is the necessary first step to fighting the endemic that is domestic violence in her country.

“Part of this initiative is getting a whole-of-society response. We don’t just leave it to police but realize we all have a role in helping victims. It is also about changing the cultural norms and saying ‘we all have a stake in this and it is not okay,’” said Logie.

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

The MP also said that she felt that domestic violence could seep into the workplace. Abusers could stalk their partners or threaten their coworkers. The attempt, she said, is to break the attachment that victims have to their workplace so that they are more dependent on their abusive partner.

The only other country to pass a similar law at the national level is the Philippines, where the bill became law in 2004. Other protective domestic violence laws exist in Canada, in the Manitoba and Ontario provinces.

The law’s formulation came from Logie’s previous work at the Women’s Refuge. Research found that 60 percent of women in abusive relationships had full-time jobs at the start of the relationship, and that less than half managed to keep their job.

“Those who stayed faced numerous hardships affecting their future employment prospects, and those who left found it difficult to reenter the workforce,” Logie told the New York Times.

High rates of poverty and alcohol and drug abuse are linked to cases of domestic violence.

“We know it, but we don’t understand it. I don’t think you ever understand it properly unless it has actually happened to you,” said Dr. Ang Jury, the chief executive of Women’s Refuge.

Featured Image by rawpixel on Unsplash

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