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New Zealand offers paid leave to domestic violence survivors

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 26 July 2018 12:35 GMT

A pedestrian walks past the New Zealand parliament building known as the Beehive in central Wellington, New Zealand, July 3, 2017. Picture taken July 3, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

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New Zealand has one of the worst records for domestic violence among developed nations.

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - New Zealand has become one of the only countries offering paid leave to domestic violence survivors, after approving a law aimed at protecting victims.

New Zealand has one of the worst records for domestic violence among developed nations. Nationwide, police respond to a family violence incident every four minutes and many cases go unreported, according to the advocacy group Shine.

Under the new legislation, employers must grant victims up to 10 days leave to give them time to escape abusive situations, which could include moving out of their homes or attending court hearings.

The new law was hailed by anti-violence groups worldwide, including the U.K.-based Women's Aid, which vowed to push for similar legislation in Britain.

The group's chief executive Katie Ghose told the Thomson Reuters Foundation women often lose their jobs when they flee domestic abuse, while many stay with abusive partners due to "financial concerns."

"We believe that this will help give more women the confidence to speak out about the abuse and seek support when taking the brave step to leave an abusive partner and rebuild their lives free from abuse," she said on Thursday.

New Zealand's new policy is set to take effect from April next year.

"This bill is a win for victims, a win for business, and, ultimately, a win for all of us," said lawmaker Jan Logie before the measure was passed in parliament.

Logie, a Green Party politician who has spearheaded the initiative for years, said the new protections would allow early intervention in domestic violence cases.

"We wait until things get really bad, or someone is killed, and then we wring our hands, squeeze in another hospital bed and build another prison," she said, according to a transcript of her speech.

"No wonder gender-based violence has become entrenched. This bill is a commitment to early intervention and prevention."

The bill was approved by parliament late on Wednesday in a narrow 63 to 57 vote, with opponents raising concerns of its economic impact on businesses.

New Zealand is only the second country in the world to put in place such policy. A similar measure was adopted by the Philippines in 2004.

The Wellington-based advocacy group Women's Refuge said it was "delighted" with the new law.

"The idea that there will now be a legal requirement for workplaces to support for victims in the workplace shows that we are committed to making significant progress in eliminating family violence," chief executive Ang Jury said in a statement.

New Zealand has long had a progressive reputation and was the first nation to give women the right to vote in 1893. Its current prime minister Jacinda Ardern is the country's third female leader.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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