It’s been an intense start to the new year.
Many, if not most of us were still on summer break when the news began to fill up again with stories of the latest travesties of justice – NZ Cricket’s shameful promotion of Scott Kuggeleijn, former NZ Air Force staffer Robert Roper being awarded costs despite being found guilty, and a young man promoting his music career at the expense of his victims. Some people also seemed very upset by an ad about razors.
Over a year on from the explosion of #metoo, stories of sexual abuse or assault continue to lead the news almost daily.
The interesting thing this year will be where our attention turns to as a nation. I think it will turn to our justice system. I read an amazing book over the summer. Eggshell Skull is young Queensland lawyer Bri Lee’s account of her own journey through the courts seeking justice as the complainant in her own case. This is the story of a broken justice system, told through the eyes and ears of a survivor.
In New Zealand our system does not serve survivors well either. Next week the Ministry of Justice is holding a Victims’ Hui to ask how we can improve our criminal justice system for all victims/survivors of crime. For survivors of sexual violence, the system currently works as a weapon against them. For the the 3% of cases of sexual violence which do go to court, victims/survivors are often traumatised, and consequences for offenders often fail to match the harm they have caused. I look forward to being part of that conversation and to taking the debate out into the community throughout the year. Stay tuned for more news on this front.
Trans rights put on back burner
In other disappointing news, an amendment to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act, which would have enabled transgender people to self-identify as their chosen gender on their birth certificates via a statutory declaration, and without having to undergo medical treatment, has been put onto the backburner by the government. Self-identification is already used on passports and driver's licenses, but changing your gender on birth certificates currently requires a medical procedure and then an application to, and approval of, the Family Court.
As Lizzie Marvelly has said, the idea that a transgender person must undergo a medical "transition" in order to live their life as the gender that they identify with is now very outdated. And yet the law still labours under that misconception. This is an issue of basic human rights. Transgender youth have some of the worst self-harm and suicide statistics of the entire youth population. We will continue to advocate, alongside many other organisations, to see the select committee process which was handling the Bill re-started.