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Marriage Equality: Culture Wars One

12 Nov

Back in August Kiri and I both wrote about the marriage equality bill put forward by Labour MP Louisa Wall. I said I was going to ask some people what marriage means for them, in attempts to foster a more compassionate and productive discussion. I have finally got around to it!

What follows is a quick interview with my friend Susan, followed by a brief discussion. Susan is in her early 30s and has been married and divorced, attended a Christian church during her teenage years and also just had a baby with her partner.

G: Do you support marriage equality legislation?

S: Yes – because of the word equality. I see no reason to deny anyone the right to marry based on their sexual orientation.

G: Is the idea of getting married to someone important to you?

S: Personally no, but that is based on a past experience of being in an unhappy marriage. I think there are more important signifiers of a committed relationship than a marriage certificate. In saying that, I wouldn’t rule out getting married again.

G: What does marriage signify for you?

S: In the past it has signified one person being submissive to another. However, this is something I would like to redefine for myself!

G: Do you think marriage equality is a significant issue and needs to be discussed? Continue reading

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Marriage Amendment Bill: What Happens Now?

31 Aug

On Wednesday, while standing outside of Parliament listening to inspiring speeches in favour of marriage equality, I was asked by a couple of friends “What next? How many times will this have to pass a vote in the House?” After some hemming and hawing I had to admit that even though I had posted on this subject, I couldn’t quite remember the details. Thus, with Wednesdays First Reading vote in favour of Louisa Wall’s Marriage Amendment bill, now is a pertinent time to re-post a previous blog on how bills become law. Wall’s bill is currently proceeding into the third phase of the process where it will go before a select committee. If marriage equality is something you feel passionately about and you are worried that the loud and caustic voices of social conservatives are being heard excessively, now is your chance to comment on the future you see for New Zealand. Opportunities like this don’t come along very often so if you are keen to make a submission information how to do so can be found here. For a great summary of the first debate about this bill in House, check out Gordan Cambells blog here.

1.    Introduction: A bill is made publically available and is announced in the House. There are four types of bill that can be introduced, Government bills which are part of the governments legislative programme to enable their policy platform, Members bills which can be introduced by members other than ministers; Local bills that are prompted by local authorities and deal with matters confined to a particular locality and Private bills- which are uncommon and provide for a particular interest in the form of an exemption for the general law for an individual or group of people (for example, it would enable two people to marry who are too closely related to married such as adopted siblings).  Bills are publically available here. The Marriage Amendment bill was introduced through a ballot as a Members bill. Continue reading

Reduced services at Rape Crisis

16 Aug

I recommend that everyone reads this blog piece responding to the announcement that Wellinton Rape Crisis will have to close its doors on Fridays due to a lack of funds:

This is no country for women

Today one of Wellington’s most vital and underappreciated services, Wellington Rape Crisis,announced that they will be reducing their service by a day per week. They simply cannot keep up with the demand for their services without adequate funding, and they are uncertain of their future due to operating under a $55,000 deficit.

Wellington Rape Crisis is 35 years old, and was started as part of the international Rape Crisis movement. It continues to be politically revolutionary in that the organisational values explicitly state that women are at the centre of their practice*, and a feminist analysis of rape and sexual abuse underpins all their work. Not only do they provide frontline services, but they advocate politically for women’s rights to autonomy and self-determination over their own bodies. If this seems like nothing special, or if you’re of the opinion that we’ve already achieved these things, then you might want to do some serious reading.

Let’s be clear about these “vital” services. All too often, WRC staff are the difference between life and death for their clients, both metaphorically and literally. WRC provides clients with tools and support to work through trauma, and helps provide survivor’s loved ones with the strength and knowledge to confidently stand by them. Staff can help with housing issues, medical referrals, access to funding for study or training, childcare and much more. The organisation recognises that rape and sexual abuse affects every part of a person’s life, and works holistically within this.

Read the rest of this blog piece here

Marriage Equality: “not exactly the biggest issue of the day”

6 Aug

Women getting marriedEveryone seems to be talking about marriage equality at the moment. From Obama to a New South Wales Anglican Vicar who recently put up a sign outside his church advocating for it. This Vicar suggested that it was time that society discuss the issue. So it’s pretty interesting that New Zealand is currently engaging in just such a debate. Labour MP, Louisa Wall’s “marriage equality” bill, was recently pulled out of the ballot for a conscience vote which may take place as early as late August.

For some people the issue seems like a no-brainer. Marriage equality, specifically widening the definition of marriage to include same sex couples is in line with United Nations mandates about equality under law for all people regardless of gender, sexuality, religion etc. However ‘marriage’ is a pretty loaded term and means different things to different people. Some people argue that marriage – as both a relation and state institution should only apply to a specific gendered configuration – often drawing on religious ideas about a sacred union between a man and a woman. Opponents of marriage equality appear to be arguing that marriage needs to be respected as a cultural tradition and to change the current rules would risk damaging the nuclear family and the ‘children may suffer’. But let’s not be naive here, marriage may traditionally have been about the union of a man and a woman but it has also been used to build nations, avoid wars, a way to gain financial security, escape poverty and do a bit of social climbing. While it might be about love for some people and having children, for many it is about more pragmatic and mundane concerns like visas, next of kin rights, keeping food on the table and protecting financial assets. Continue reading

‘The Help’ in Togo

3 Jul

Marianne from elevenhoursahead has written a post about the ethics of living and working in Togo on our sister blog elevenhoursabroad. It starts like this…

“I was talking to my Dad on skype the other day and he asked me how my maid was. It was a question that felt strange and unnerving to me as I became confronted with an image of myself that I was uncomfortable with; that of the expat ‘development’ worker who hires a local (Togolese in this instance) maid.

I bring up my own involvement as an employer in the domestic service industry not as a well-paid development consultant, or even as an averagely-paid development assistant but rather as a barely-paid intern. The cost of labor is sufficiently low here that even while paying Esther[2] well above the minimum wage, on my meager wages I am easily able to afford this service. I am able to have a kind of lifestyle I would not be able to have ‘back home’. This troubles me.”

The full post can be read here.

Well-articulated rant #5

22 Jun

This week, ElevenHoursAhead will be publishing the thoughts of current and former students on the real value of the student allowance system. Here is the last personal reflection from Amanda Thomas:

Some friends of mine once jokingly typified me as being from the school of hard knocks. Comparatively I’m not really. My parents separated when I was eleven and for a while my mum (who was working six nights a week as a nurse), two brothers and I lived on mince on toast (the main reason mince now makes me want to hurl). Yep, we were povo, but by the time I was leaving school for university, my family fell into that awkward gap of “no, your family’s not poor enough for the student allowance but not well off enough to help you financially”. So I paid for my undergraduate and honours degrees with a student loan, and waited until I was almost 20 before I went flatting, knowing that getting living costs ($160 per week at that time) on my loan as well as fees was going to make it balloon.

Continue reading

Well-articulated rant #4

21 Jun
This week, ElevenHoursAhead will be publishing the thoughts of current and former students on the real value of the student allowance system. Here is today’s personal reflection from Gradon Diprose:

“They get on TV and they can make a bit of a racket … dragging a few rubbish bins around, they need some Greeks to show them how to do it”. “It gets reported, mainly because it blocked the traffic, [but] who’s listening? Most people actually think the students got a pretty fair go and they should count themselves lucky that they’ve still got interest free loans and get on with it because, you know, get your training finished and get a job and start contributing.”

These were Bill English’s comments in relation to student protests in Auckland and Wellington after recent budget announcements which included significant changes to student loans and student allowances. For about three days I was so angry about these comments I kept waking up in the middle of the night wanting to punch English in the mouth. I’m not used to having such physical reactions to a Politician’s comments. However I got thinking about why I was so angry and here are a few reasons.

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