Country, which has the highest rate of domestic abuse in the OECD, creates new charges with tougher penalties for family violence. The New Zealand government has announced sweeping changes to its domestic violence laws, aimed at tackling the country’s poor record on family abuse.
New Zealand has the highest rate of domestic abuse in the OECD. Last year New Zealand police investigated over 100,000 incidents of family violence, with one in every three New Zealand women reporting an experience of sexual or physical abuse in their lifetime.
A child was present in two-thirds of the 100,000 domestic violence incidents reported to police.
On Tuesday Prime Minister John Key announced 50 changes to the Domestic Violence Act, including banning coercive or forced marriages, and the creation of three new offences.
Non-fatal strangulation will now become a separate charge, as will abuse against a family member, and both will carry harsher penalties than common assault.
“New Zealanders generally resist government interference in their private lives, and I get that,” said Key in a speech announcing the changes.
New Zealand has the highest rate of domestic abuse
“But let me say straight up that in households where anyone is being assaulted, threatened, intimidated, belittled or deprived, the perpetrator has no right to expect privacy so they can go on being a bully.
“If they won’t stop that behavior, and the victims can’t stop it, then we must ensure that someone else stops it.”
Jane Drumm, general manager for domestic abuse charity Shine, said the government’s changes were “well overdue” and lauded the prime minister’s hardliner speech.
“For a long time I have felt that New Zealand had a lot to be ashamed of,” said Drumm. “And we didn’t seem to be getting any traction on this very shameful side, the underbelly to what is a beautiful country.
“Today our prime minister put a line in the sand. In my 33 years in the field I have never heard a prime minister state so clearly: ‘This will no longer be tolerated. You are not alone. This government intends to support you, and to take responsibility for keeping you safe.’”
In a statement Women’s Refuge New Zealand chief executive Ang Jury also welcomed the changes.