Submission to the UN – Aotearoa New Zealand Universal Periodic Review (UPR) 2024
The Women’s Rights Party (WRP) NZ is focused on issues that directly impact women, girls, and children. We recognise that such interests are wide ranging and include women’s sex-based rights, women’s healthcare and wellbeing, our children’s education, and recognition of women’s contributions to society. The Women’s Rights Party honours the women of Aotearoa NZ, who won the right to vote in 1893, the first self-governing nation in the World to legislate women’s suffrage.
The Women’s Rights Party has been formed 130 years after the women’s suffrage legislation out of a concern for the erosion of the rights of women and girls and concerns about the safeguarding of children.
The Women’s Rights Party recognises and acknowledges Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand.
We note the UPR draft report which will be submitted by the NZ Government. On page 2: point 6, the government reports on issues raised by the public regarding open discussion about human rights. The WRP would like it noted that women’s rights in Aotearoa are being actively eroded, and the government has not yet addressed the concerns that have been repeatedly raised by women, and in fact the concerns of women are being bypassed. Our feedback on the state of women’s rights in Aotearoa New Zealand is below. We begin with a section on data as without the collection of accurate sexed data it will become impossible to monitor the wellbeing of women and the progress towards full sex-based rights. The Women’s Rights Party hope the UPR Review will take this issue seriously.
Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission.
1. Data concerning women, women’s health, and women’s wellbeing
1.1 Sex matters in life and law and women are asking for their rights to be protected.
The Human Rights Act aims to protect human rights by prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex and sexual orientation. Women remain entitled to protection from harm in law. We would like to see women explicitly defined as a protected group. Sex and gender are completely different and are often confused in policy and legal documents – to the continued detriment of women.
1.2 The NZ Census which was operational in 2023, conflated sex with gender and asked questions of NZ citizens which were outside of the understanding of many people.
In the pre-census information released by Statistics New Zealand (StatsNZ), the impression was given that humans can change sex. This is misinformation – sex is binary – there are only two sexes, male and female.1Wizemann,T. M. & Pardue, M.L. (eds) (2001). Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter? 2Biological sex is binary, even though there is a rainbow of sex roles
3Ekman, K. E. (2023). On the meaning of sex. Spinifex Books.4Sullivan, A., & Todd, S. (eds) (2023). Sex and Gender: A Contemporary Reader. Routledge. Gender is not the same as sex – it is a social construction. Despite the submissions which were sent in asking for clarity in the questions about sex and gender, no changes were made to the census questions. Sex is a fundamental demographic variable. The government and all government departments have a responsibility to collect accurate data about all their citizens as this information contributes directly to policy and decision making. The loss of trust in government and Stats NZ may be detrimental to future data gathering which is not only disappointing but also potentially damaging and economically reckless. Inaccurate data will not only be detrimental to women but also to people who do not ‘identify’ as their birth sex. It should be noted that the existence of people with differences of sexual development (DSD – also known as intersex) does not change the sex binary. Although there are forty variations of DSD they represent approximately 0.018 percent of all births.5Wright, C. (2023). Understanding the Sex Binary. City Journal, March. 6Sax, L. (2002). How common is intersex? a response to Anne Fausto-Sterling. J Sex Res,
39(3),174-8. As described by Wright, an evolutionary biologist; “… accurate, nonpoliticised, descriptions of biology are essential to crafting policy to preserve the integrity of female-only spaces.”
1.3 Sex must not be interpreted to include gender – information about both should be collected separately. Birth sex must be collected accurately and in the interests of safety and law, there are many areas in which this is critical.
1.4 We have seen some disturbing examples of how distorting data can alter perceptions of serious issues such as criminal activity and offending. For example, since sex self ID was passed into law, men’s crimes are now being reported as female and recorded in data and the media. This means that crime data has now been corrupted and accurately monitoring trends will become untenable.
1.5 Data about the number of rapes being committed and sexual violence offences are now reported as sexual violence without further definition, so the necessary sexed data will also become less useful, and trends impossible to monitor accurately.
1.6 Sexual violence is predominately a crime of male power against women, and women will not be served well by the justice system if monitoring fails. We already have issues in New Zealand with the low number of rape convictions.
1.7 As stated by Sullivan;
“While sex is an important predictor of outcomes across the board, crime represents a particularly extreme example. The overwhelming majority of individuals convicted of violent crime are male, and females represent a tiny minority of those convicted of sexual assault of any kind. Rape is a male crime by definition, requiring non-consensual penetration with a penis. The vast majority of victims of rape are women.”7Sullivan, A. (2021). Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee submission – Accuratelyrecord the sex of people charged or convicted of rape or attempted rape.
1.8 Sullivan also makes the point that it would be a mistake to imagine inconsequentialeffects of these data mistakes – “Small numbers of misallocated cases can have a large effect on research findings in any sub-group analysis where one sex is dominant. Crime statistics in general, and sexual crime statistics in particular, provide a clear example of this.” 8Sullivan, A. (2021). Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee submission – Accuratelyrecord the sex of people charged or convicted of rape or attempted rape.
2. Single-sex spaces
2.1 Specifically, it is of grave concern that women are asking for single-sex spaces to be retained and/or reinstated, but single sex toilets, restrooms, changing rooms, sports competitions, and services set up for women are being removed.
2.2 Special issues groups such as women’s refuges, rape crisis centres, and other support agencies for women need to be supported to continue their valuable work without restrictions. We would like the NZ Government to commit to funding services that are for women only, without threats of loss of funding if services do not accept men self-identifying as women. Men self-identifying as women who experience violence should have a service specifically set up to support them, but it is innappropriate to expect a single-sex women’s service to accommodate men.
2.3 Women have the right to peaceful assembly and the right to single sex gatherings and these are an important part of solidarity, advocacy and safety for women and girls.
2.4 Women only groups are finding it impossible to assemble for women only events. There has been no attempt made on behalf of the police or government to support women who wish to meet on a single sex basis to talk about women’s issues and women’s rights. Venues have been lobbied by activists who threaten disruption if events go ahead, and a large majority of venues unfortunately comply. Women’s speech is being silenced.
2.5 If any male can identify into women’s and girl’s spaces these spaces can no longer be considered protected spaces. Males self-identifying as females and entering women only spaces effectively eliminate the sex-based rights of women and girls.
2.6 There are many aspects of day-to-day life that obviously do not require sex-segregation but there are spaces in which women and girls are particularly vulnerable. For example – school toilets where young girls are having to manage menstruation in the same spaces as young boys, changing rooms at swimming pools and in shops, and overnight stays in dormitories for school events. The Women’s Rights Party is unaware of any changes in the incidence of violence against women and girls that would suddenly render the need for single sex spaces for women and girls
2.7 The Women’s Rights Party has been made aware of special swimming sessions for women only being compromised by statements by pool management saying that anyone who identifies as a woman can enter these single sex sessions. Apart from the indignity of sharing changing rooms with fully intact males which many women and girls object to, one of the main reasons for the creation of these sessions was to support Muslin women to attend swimming pools. Opening the category to self-identification, means that many women now self-exclude.
2.8 Another space that requires single sex consideration is the hospital ward. The Women’s Rights Party have been concerned to note the number of sexual attacks on women and girls in the UK. A recent report revealed that 6,500 rapes and sexual assaults have been recorded in hospitals in England and Wales, over nearly four years, with only 4.1% of suspects known to have been charged. 9Report reveals 6500 hospital sexual assaults in 4 years We have been unable to access data about sexual assaults in hospitals in New Zealand but consider this data is essential – and it needs to be sex-based.
2.9 The Women’s prison estate in New Zealand is now housing males who identify as females. The Women’s Rights Party understands that there are people in prison who are more vulnerable to violence, but we fail to see why women should be forced to accommodate what amounts to a service failure. There have always been vulnerable men in male prisons and the system has had to guard their safety by housing them in safer spaces within the male prison. This can also be achieved for men who identify as women who need to be housed in the male prison estate.
2.10 There have been numerous incidents globally of male prisoners who identify as women and who are housed in women’s prisons, sexually assaulting and raping women prisoners. 10Transgender inmate admits Wakefield jail sex offences 11Trans woman guilty of raping two women remanded in female prison in Scotland 12The transgender prison experiment UNCOVERED: Male-to-female inmates in women’s cellblocks drive rising numbers of rapes and abuse on the new frontline in America’s culture wars 13Lawsuit: Female Prisoner Says She Was Raped by Transgender Inmate Ministry of Justice statistics from the UK clearly show that males identifying as women exhibit a male-type pattern of criminality. This means they exhibit a propensity to sexual crime that matches their birth sex. Legislation and policies should be designed to keep women safe, and this data concerning sexual assault needs to be taken
into account. 14Transgender women exhibit a male-type pattern of criminality: Implications for legislators and policy makers. 15Evidence and Data on Trans Women’s Offending Rates: Submitted by Professor Rosa Freedman,
Professor Kathleen Stock, and Professor Alice Sullivan.
2.11 There are some sporting activities that are required to be single-sex for the protection and safety of women and girls. Obviously, it is inappropriate for men to play in teams where high impact contact is part of the game – for example rugby. Sports which allow physical contact and collisions are unsafe if biological men are playing in women’s and girl’s categories.
2.12 In terms of competitive sport, it is unfair and demoralising for women and girls to have men and boys allowed to compete against them. Protection of the female category is essential to the stated aims of trust, confidence, and integrity.
2.13 Biological men who identify as women, and who have been through puberty have an unfair advantage over women. 16Gender identity and sport: is the playing field level? Br J Sports Med, 39(10):695-699.
2.14 There are significant differences between the sexes which render direct competition between males and females unfair in many sports due to the physical advantages enjoyed by males.
2.15 If males who have been through puberty are taking testosterone hormone suppressants this does not reverse the advantages of male puberty. There is no evidence to support the claim that male advantages are reversed.
2.16 Current research has found that testosterone suppression for one year before competition results in little or no change to anatomical differences between the two sexes. This means there remains no equivalence between men identifying as women and women. 17Harper, J., O'Donnell, E., Sorouri Khorashad, B., et al. (2021). How does hormone transition in transgender women change body composition, muscle strength and haemoglobin? Systematic review with a focus on the implications for sport participation. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 55:865-872. 1818 Hilton, E.N., & Lundberg, T.R. (2021). Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport:
Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage. Sports Med, 51:199–214.
2.17 Women and girls may self-exclude themselves from sports due to fears for their safety, privacy, or dignity. They may also exclude themselves from competitive sports because they may be deprived of the fair opportunity to win their events.
2.18 Female sport categories must be based on sex at birth, and other solutions for participation must be found for trans-identifying people. In addition, in the interests of privacy and dignity, women and girls need their own changing rooms, and equitable access to training and playing facilities.
3. Violence against women and incarcerated women
3.1 Women in New Zealand are at a high risk of family violence and the reported incidence is increasing. New Zealand has consistently been ranked as the worst developed country in the OECD for family violence.
3.2 Reducing the high levels of violence against women is a priority.
3.3 We are concerned that not enough is being done to protect women and children from violence. This needs a lot more resourcing and a change of cultural attitude, including in the justice system.
3.4 Poverty and household disruption plays a role in both violence against women and their incarceration. Ongoing economic deprivation and economic disempowerment, demonstrate the ongoing failure of social policies to improve the lives of women in poverty in New Zealand.
4. Free speech
4.1 We have concerns about academic freedom and the ability to challenge or debate what could be construed as unpopular opinions.
4.2 A diversity of voices, views and debates can and should be protected while also protecting and preventing discrimination, hate and harm.
4.3 It is important to recognise that sex-based violence and discrimination is still disproportionately suffered by women, and of note are the threats of violence against women who have attempted to discuss gender critical theories.
4.4 Women’s discussions should not be viewed as vehicles to destroy the rights of others. This is not the intention. There are differences between views and beliefs and the type of expression used to express these beliefs. Respectful debate must still be protected and should not be viewed as harassment, intimidation, abuse, or discrimination.
4.5 The rights of women to peaceful assembly, freedom of association and and freedom of expression are guaranted in the Bill of Rights Act (BORA) 1990.
4.6 From around 2019, city councils tried to stop women speaking at council venues about their rights. This changed after the court case Whitmore vs Palmerston North City Council on 25 June 2021, where the judge ruled that Speak Up for Women was clearly not a hate group, and that the women had a right to use Council venues to speak about their rights.
4.7 One of the worst violations of women’s BORA rights of speech and assembly happened in Albert Park, Auckland, on 25 March 2023, where mob violence prevented women from being able to speak about their rights to single sex spaces. Police offered no protection.
4.8 In response to this and other similar events overseas, Reem Alsalem, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls issued a statement of great concern on 22 May 2023. She began:
“I am deeply concerned at the escalation of intimidation and threats against women and girls for expressing their opinions and beliefs regarding their needs and rights based on their sex and/or sexual orientation. Disagreement with the views of women/girls including politicians, academics, and women rights advocates should never be used as grounds to justify violence and intimidation. In addition, discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation is prohibited in international and regional instruments. “
5. Women’s language and health
5.1 Significant inequities exist across our New Zealand health services, with women’s health issues minimised, and women’s health services severely under-resourced. The Women’s Rights Party welcomed the development of a women’s health strategy – the first health strategy specifically dedicated to women and their health.
5.2 There has been increasing trend in the New Zealand health system towards using exclusively gender-neutral language in policy and public health messages related to women’s health care issues. Although this approach has the benefit of being inclusive of gender diverse people who require women’s health services it is exclusionary of women, and can be dehumanising. It also has the potential to lead to unintended adverse consequences as the meaning and intent of statements can become unclear or inaccurate as a result. Women with English as a second language, with communication difficulties, or those with limited health literacy may be adversely impacted when clear sex-based terminology is no longer used in communications about health care. We strongly support sex-based language in health systems. 19Effective Communication About Pregnancy, Birth, Lactation, Breastfeeding and Newborn Care: The Importance of Sexed Language
5.3 The government / Ministry of Health did not openly consult about their changes to sex-based language and there have been no impact assessments to explore the effects of using de-sexed language in health communication, public health campaigns, or health education and training.
5.4 Women’s health needs have been under-researched, under-diagnosed and under-resourced. Being female is associated with certain health conditions that do not affect men to the same degree. Health communication needs to be clear. Men identifying as women do not need women’s health services, but women who identify as men will require women’s health services. Language which is unclear will lead to issues with screening, and health needs being misunderstood or missed. This issue is relevant for both sexes.
6.1 In a sex-equal world maternity protection would be robust, flexible, prioritised and maintained, and available to all pregnant women. The reason for maternity leave must not be forgotten. It is primarily about recovery from pregnancy and birth, facilitation of bonding and attachment and the establishment of breastfeeding.
6.2 Women should not be marginalised because they take time away from the paid workforce to parent. Availability of high quality affordable early childhood education within large businesses needs to be encouraged and where this is not possible access to other high quality, suitable care should be supported.
6.3 Women who are unemployed, and who have become mothers, should be supported to remain with their infants and should be not subjected to pressure to search for low paying employment and to take this employment, while other women are in low paying jobs taking
care of other women’s infants.
6.4 Mothering should be recognised as playing an important and significant role in the well-being and health of both mothers and infants/young children.
6.5 The Women’s Rights Party is concerned about the lack of data about women with disabilities who are pregnant and parenting. Services and resources for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers with disabilities are limited. An understanding of the issues that affect women and their families would be valuable in terms of aiding the development of services that meet their specific needs but there is no data available as far as we understand. The Stats NZ survey on disability did not ask questions about pregnancy and mothering with disability despite submissions requesting that this data be collected.
6.6 Research indicates that disabled women encounter a range of economic, attitudinal and knowledge barriers in relation to becoming mothers, and that there is a shortage of evidence in regards to the issues disabled women have to confront when accessing maternity and other essential services.20“It’s just so bloody hard”: recommendations for improving health interventions and maternity support services for disabled women
6.7 The government’s requirement that some beneficiary mothers, with babies as young as one, must seek paid work; does not recognise the contribution that mothers make. Furthermore, beneficiary families, who are often headed by a single mother, are refused the In Work Tax Credit if they are not in paid work. This discriminates against some of the poorest mothers and children in society.
7.1 The Women’s Rights Party is concerned about the introduction of gender ideology into New Zealand primary and secondary schools.
7.2 We support relationship and sexuality education in schools but we strongly believe that sex education should be age appropriate, science and biology based, and that gender ideology has no place in our schools.
7.3 Young children do not have gender identities, and they do not experience sexual attraction – which is why education must always be age-appropriate. During adolescence, sexuality emerges as an important aspect of human development as young people become increasingly aware of their sexuality. However, the timing and expression is subject to wide individual, social, and cultural variation.
7.4 Confusion about sex and gender is common, and many people make the mistake of thinking that gender, which is a social construction, means biological sex. The Ministry of Education is contributing to this confusion by using the term gender when they intend this to mean gender identity – which is not described or explained.
7.5 There has also been no transparency as to the content of the relationship and sexuality education in schools and parents have reported being unable to access details. However, by law, schools must consult with their community every two years to decide the content of this education.
7.6 The Women’s Rights Party is also concerned about the relationship and sexuality guide encouraging schools to socially transition children without seeking parental consent. We recognise that social transition of a child is not a neutral act and it may have detrimental consequences to the short and long-term health of the child and family relationships.
7.7 Under NZ law, parents have a range of rights and responsibilities that they can exercise when raising their children21Law takes precedence over policy but these parental rights are being threatened by Ministry of Education polices.
7.8 The Ministry of Education is breaching international and national laws by promoting gender ideology in schools, removing single sex toilets and supporting the social and even medical transitioning of children, sometimes without the parents’ knowledge or consent.
7.9 These include:
- The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which includes protecting children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse;
- NZ Care of Children Act 2004 which requires any person caring for a child to do so in cooperation with the parents;
- NZ Crimes Act 1961-about the legal duty of parents to protect a child from injury;
- NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 which allows for freedom of thought, conscience, religion, belief and opinions;
- NZ Human Rights Act, which allows for single sex space discrimination on the grounds of public decency or public safety.
8.1 It is twenty years since the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which decriminalised prostitution in New Zealand, was passed.
8.2 A recent evidence -based review by Auckland researcher Tony Pitt and UK-based Helen Johnson from Stand Against Sexual Exploitation (SASE) highlighted several significant concerns:
- Increased numbers of prostitutes.
- Health and safety violations – and the reality of violence.
- Low rates of reporting and prosecuting violations.
- The black market, including internal trafficking.
- Lack of support for exiting the industry.
- Brothel inspections: mandated but not happening.
- Failure to implement recommended changes. A review of the law reform in 2008 made 28 recommendations, however only 11 have been implemented. 22Prostitution Law Review: Benefits Exaggerated, Shortcomings Ignored, Denied or Hidden
8.3 We are concerned that women’s rights and safety are not being upheld under the current legislation, and we would like a full review of that legislation.
8.4 In particular, we call for resources to be provided for women to exit prostitution.
9. Income and well being
9.1 Under the current government, we have seen minimum wages and benefits rise, more than in the previous few years. However the cost of living has also risen significantly. Housing and food, in particular, are becoming unaffordable and housing may not be available at all for a significant number of people.
9.2 The government now monitors child poverty, but has not succeeded in meeting its argets of child poverty reduction.
9.3 We lived through the Covid era, during which the government provided additional financial assistance to workers and employers when work could not always be continued due to lockdowns and mandatory isolation.
9.4 According to the Child Poverty Action Group, child poverty indicators have just about held even under the current government, without notable improvements.23Latest official child poverty measures: 2021/22 (reported March 2023) However, the numbers of people who need community support to obtain food, or who cannot access housing have worsened.
9.6 The government created a Welfare Experts Advisory Group which advised on significantly increased spending on benefits. However these recommendations were only partially and slowly implemented.The transformational change promised by the Labour government has not eventuated.
9.7 The government has failed to change the orientation of its welfare policies from a paid work focussed orientation to a social needs orientation.
9.8 The government has failed to build the substantial number of state housing that is necessary to end the housing crisis.
9.9 The government has also failed to institute tax reform that could being more economic equality into our society.
10.1 A private members bill, which proposes to increase the legal parental rights of “intending parents” and reduce the legal parental rights of the birth mother is awaiting consideration by parliament. We oppose this change.
11.1 Over the last few years, the government called for submissions regarding proposed changes to the Adoption Act. We would support any changes to the Adoption Act which would make it easier for adopted children to trace their original birth parents.
11 .2 The proposed surrogacy legislation would also require changes to the Adoption Act. We would oppose changes to the Adoption Act which would no longer require the “intending parents” using a surrogate to adopt the child from the birth mother; but would instead regard them as the child’s legal parents before the birth of the child. The birth mother must always be the child’s first legal parent.
12 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979 (CEDAW)
12.1 We note that the changes that the New Zealand goverment has been adopting in support of gender, gender identity and gender expression, to the detriment of women’s sex-based rights which are guaranteed in our Human Rights Act 1993; breach the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979.
12. 2 The women’s rights upheld in CEDAW are sex -based. We ask the United Nations to continue to uphold women’s sex-based rights which are provided for in this Convention, and to ask the New Zealand government to do so.
12.3 The Women’s Rights Party New Zealand supports the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights which reaffirms the sex-based rights which are provided for in CEDAW.
In New Zealand:
- There should be no men in women’s prisons.
- There should be no men in women’s refuges, rape crisis centres, changing rooms or toilets.
- There should be no men in women’s sports.
- Protect free speech and do not add further restrictions to our free speech rights.
- Do not introduce legislation which would define questioning the concept of gender, or claiming single sex spaces for women, as “hate speech” needing to be censored.
- Clarify that the sex -based rights in the Human Rights Act are just that, and that identifying as the other sex does not give you the rights of that other sex.
- Do not add gender, gender identity or gender expression into the Human Rights Act.
- Remove Sex Self ID from the Births Deaths Marriages and Relationships Registration Act.
- All statistical data must be primarily sex- based not gender based.
- Sex and gender need to be clearly distinguised in data, policy and in law.
- Sex needs to be understood as being material reality; and gender needs to be understood as being socially constructed.
- Remove gender ideology from the R&S Education Guidelines and from NZ schools.
- Social and medical transitioning of children should not be promoted in schools.
- Schools must always consult with parents and keep parents informed.
- Keep separate toilets for girls and boys at schools.
- Institute a full review of how the Prostitution Reform Act is working in practice.
- Provide well funded exit progammes which help women to exit prostitution.
- Ensure that everybody has a living income, and that mothers and children are fully supported.
- Put more resourcing into protecting women and children from violence.
- Ensure that protection orders are enforced and applications for protection orders are accessible and affordable.
- The birth mother must remain as the first legal parent of the child.
The Women’s Right Party is grateful for the opportunity to comment on the New Zealand Universal Periodic Review (UPR) 2024. We hope that our feedback is useful. We hope that positive strides forward will continue to be made towards a future where all forms of discrimination against women is eliminated, in Aotearoa New Zealand and globally.
We recognise that we do not speak for all women in Aotearoa, but we are confident that what we are advocating for will be of benefit to all women and girls now and in the future.
Jill Ovens | Chimene del la Varis (Co-Leaders NZ Women’s Rights Party).