Female MPs Thrown Out of New Zealand Parliament for Speaking Up About Their Sexual Assaults

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Some of New Zealand’s female MPs were ordered to leave parliament yesterday for revealing themselves as survivors of sexual assault.

The women’s comments were a response to Prime Minister John Key’s statement on Tuesday that opposition Labour and Green MPs, who were concerned over the welfare of New Zealand offenders detained on Australia’s Christmas Island, were “backing the rapists.” Key told Labour leader Andrew Little on Tuesday,

[…] you back the rapists. Some of the [detainees] are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers. These are the people that the Labour party are saying are more important to support than New Zealanders who deserve protecting when they come back here. If you want to put yourself on the side of sex offenders, go ahead my son, but we’ll defend New Zealanders.

Metiria Turei, co-leader of New Zealand’s Green Party, breaks down over at The Guardian the conflict between Key and many Labour and Green MPs:

[…] the prime minister had attacked members of the opposition for “backing rapists” because we had questioned him about his refusal to take Australia to task for locking up New Zealand citizens in an offshore detention centre on Christmas Island.

The truth is, about 50 New Zealand citizens have been detained under a policy that revokes the visas of anyone of “bad character” or who has been sentenced to crimes that carry a tariff of one year or more in prison.

Many of the detainees are people with minor historical convictions, people who have lived their entire lives in Australia, who have families, who have paid taxes there and been good Aussies. Some, however, do have serious convictions for abhorrent crimes.

But not one of the detainees has been convicted of rape or murder.

[…] Challenging our prime minister, as is our job in an open and healthy democracy, should not lead to him accusing victims of sexual violence of backing rapists, and neither should it excuse him from using rape as a political weapon.

Rape is not an abstraction for thousands of New Zealand men, women and children. It is not a political tool

Rape is not a distraction. It is certainly not an abstraction for thousands of New Zealand men, women and children. It is not a political tool.

For Prime Minister Day, rape is hyperbole, not a fact of life. Invoking sexual assault was an inappropriate, manipulative tactic used to bully Green and Labour MPs and distract from their claims that Key is more interested in protecting New Zealand’s relationship with Australia than he is about possible human rights violations on Christmas Island.

In protest of Key’s offensive statement, Turie told house speaker David Carter yesterday that “As the victim of a sexual assault, I take personal offence at the prime minister’s comments, and ask that you require him to withdraw and apologise.”

Her feelings were echoed by at least 5 other female MPs, who were ordered by Carter to stop and told they were “flouting the rules” with false points of order. Despite Carter’s warning, more female MPs continued to stand and share their personal experiences. Green MP Marama Davidson and Labour Party MP Poto Williams were then thrown out of the House, after which eight female MPs and four male MPs walked out in protest.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty explained,

We’ve walked out because every woman in this country needs to know that women parliamentarians will not put up with this.

We will not stand by and allow this to be bandied around parliament – this kind of abuse of people and way of approaching rape is simply unacceptable, and the prime minister has to be held to account.

Turei writes for The Guardian that the treatment she and her fellow MPs received in Parliament is indicative of New Zealand’s widespread rape culture:

Sexual violence is at epidemic levels in New Zealand and too many people suffer their pain in silence. It is normalised and joked about and “rape culture” is engrained in almost every aspect of our lives.

According to The Guardian, house speaker Carter now says “he had not heard Key’s comments clearly at the time” but that, by the time the women began sharing their experiences the next day, “it was too late to demand an apology.”

(via Hannah Ongley on Twitter)

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