New Zealand fails at human rights - Tactical Ninja
Mar. 8th, 2011
09:41 am - New Zealand fails at human rights
Yesterday I emailed my lecturer and asked her about researching the coercive sterilisation of drug addicts as a state crime. She said she thought it'd be a very interesting topic and that the NHS connection in the UK is a very clear one, with the attitude of the US government able to be framed as a crime of omission. She was very clear that one line I would have to pursue is the removal of the right to family as a state crime.
So far so good. Yay, etc.
I read The Hand Mirror - a kiwi-based feminist blog that focuses also on issues of intersectionality. I don't agree with everything they say but it is nice to see something out there that is about us. And last night they posted a thing about the Welfare Working Group that's made me consider changing my essay topic: If only those poor people would stop breeding. Summary:
The Welfare Working Group thinks that people on benefits having babies is a bad thing. They have 'found the issue difficult'. They think that being on a benefit provides incentive to have babies. Their solutions?
1) Ready access to long-acting reversible contraception for all parents within the welfare system. I suspect this would probably be free of charge. I have no issue with this, in fact I think all contraception should be free.
2) "Strong signals to parents that a welfare payment is intended to provide temporary support while they get back on their feet and into employment." While they are not exactly clear on what they are recommending here, the next sentence says "In practice, for most this means taking active steps to avoid pregnancy while receiving Jobseeker Support." So what this seems to mean is that along with their proof that they are trying hard enough to find a job, they are recommending that people be expected to produce proof that they are using contraception as part of their 'work-testing' weekly meetings. Yes, this is not a joke - that's what they are recommending. I don't know about you, but while I'm totally fine with sharing information about my contraception with interested parties, I draw the line at anyone else telling me I have to prove I'm using it. That is an invasion of bodily autonomy that crosses the line from concern to coercion. I am totally not ok with someone's income being dependent on their use of contraception, regardless of their social class. And what about men, who do not have the same array of 'long-acting' contraception available to them? Will they have to produce used condoms in order to continue receiving their benefit? Or will they be coerced into having a vasectomy? Or will it, like it usually does, end up being laid at the feet of women because men are in the 'too hard' basket?
Coercing people into proving that they use contraception is government control of fertility - you know, like they do in China? Only in New Zealand, they want to focus it on a target group - the poor. As far as I can tell this doesn't breach any of the human rights treaties that NZ is party to, or the Bill of Rights Act, but I could be wrong. As far as I'm concerned though, it's a form of discrimination and it's wrong.
[EDIT] I was wrong. The right to form a family - Article 16, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
3) This is the real kicker IMO. Should said 'job-seeker' have a contraception failure, or choose to have a family, if "the changes to work test requirements do not address the incentives to have additional children while receiving welfare assistance"* - the WWG says: "the Government may need to consider financial disincentives, say by withholding part or all of the extra payments that come with having an additional child."
Yeah, you read that right. If someone has a kid while on a benefit, the WWG thinks the government should make the parent raise that child without any more help. You don't have to be any kind of mental giant to see how that would affect those already below the poverty line. I find myself wondering how that would affect our abysmal record of child poverty. I fail to see how making people live on the same amount of money with extra children will improve anything for anyone. I fail to see how a parent with two children is expected to get a job in those circumstances. I fail to see how the WWG can make this recommendation without having their fingers crossed behind their backs, and expect such a policy to make anything better, anywhere.
But that's not all. Such a policy would impact far more heavily on women - because whether we like it or not, it's much easier for a man to walk away from his child (witness: my own situation), and leave the mother literally holding the baby. And if right now you're thinking "Oh she could just have an abortion", read this. Your government is moving in the direction of making abortions harder to get, which again will impact more severely on the poor**. Also, Family Planning recently was forced to withdraw an application to start providing medical abortions in its clinics throughout the country. So no, 'just get an abortion' is not as simple as those who've never had one might think.
Lastly, there is something in our human rights legislation that covers this: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same protection."
- Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
So, um, from what I gather, this proposal removes the security we are promised in the event of unemployment, and ignores the bit about how all children shall enjoy the protection of their health regardless of their birth status. And it only removes it from one group of people - the poor.
* Yes, that's right folks. The WWG actually believes that the current DPB setup encourages people to have more children. I find myself wondering how many of those people have ever been on the DPB. Obviously they haven't read any of the debunking research for that myth (US based but equally true here, see myth 1). And please, don't give me your anecdata about that one or two people you know who (etc).. because I have anecdata too and NOBODY I have met has ever chosen to have a kid to get the DPB. So let's stick with the facts, eh?
** Currently in NZ you have to visit your doctor, then get two recommendations and an examination before you can have an abortion. I have heard that the shortage of doctors is making it hard to get timely appointments, and that there is currently a very real risk that a woman may not be able to gather all her recommendations before she's passed the 'use-by' date for abortion, after which they won't perform one. And that's without considering the cost of these appointments for those already living below the poverty line.
I have two final comments to make on this: first, New Zealanders like to consider this to be an egalitarian society. It is not, and anyone who claims that these recommendations are 'common sense' or who thinks it's ok to make invasions into the bodily autonomy of someone who is receiving assistance from us because they are poor, or who thinks that penalising people financially for doing something that richer people are able to do freely is all right because the 'bludgers' are 'milking the taxpayer', should perhaps do some damn research and learn some facts before spouting off about this. And probably take a long hard look at yourself.
"There but for the grace of God, go I"
Last thing - this could either fit with my essay topic, or become my essay topic. I am tempted.
First was still a bit wobbly this morning. The drugs they use on dogs seem to be considerably more potent than those they use on humans - either that or her venerable age has slowed her recovery. She ate last night and kept it down and she was much perkier today. Now, I wait to hear from the lab that is culturing her snot, and the other lab that has the right size scope, to see when she can get in. I might have to drive her to Palmy for it.
I have $300 left in my savings, after that it's going to get interesting depending on what needs doing next. But I get paid on Friday! ;-)