Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, including spousal rape. The government enforces this law. The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment; however, preventive detention may occur in cases where the parole board, during its annual review, believes the prisoner poses a continuing threat to society.
Rates of reported violence against women remained at high levels, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Ministry of Justice data showed convictions for sexual offenses declined from 2018-19 to 2019-20. According to the ministry’s most recent annual Crime and Victims Survey (October 2018-September 2019) almost one in six adults (16 percent) experienced intimate partner violence and nearly a quarter (24 percent) experienced sexual violence at some point during their lives. Women were more than two times more likely than men to have experienced intimate partner violence and three times more likely to have experienced sexual violence.
In May the government announced budget increases to support New Zealand’s family violence services, whose work, they said, “has been shown to be so essential throughout the COVID-19 lockdown…We know this crisis has increased pressure to New Zealand families and that more victims are isolated.”
Domestic violence is a criminal offense. Police were responsive to reports of domestic violence. The law provides victims with 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. The government partially funded women’s shelters, psychosocial services, rape crisis centers, sexual abuse counseling, family-violence victim support networks, and violence prevention services. Victim’s programs include: a crisis response plan for the 72 hours after a sexual assault; programs to reduce harmful sexual behavior, offending, and reoffending; programs focusing on adults who pose a risk to children; and services for male survivors of sexual abuse.
The law defines family violence to reflect how controlling behavior can be used over time to frighten victims and undermine their autonomy. It also provides principles to guide decision making; sets timely responses; names 10 government agencies and a range of social service practitioners as family violence agencies; removes legal barriers to information sharing between agencies to increase victims’ safety; and makes a range of changes to improve the effectiveness of protection orders and the duration of police safety orders.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for civil proceedings to be taken in cases of harassment in the workplace. The government, through the Human Rights Commission, effectively enforced the law. Sexual contact induced by certain threats may also fall under the criminal code, with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The Human Rights Commission published a guide on making a complaint about sexual harassment. The guide includes access to the commission’s free, informal, and confidential service for questions or complaints about sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination. The commission also published fact sheets on sexual harassment and made regular sexual harassment prevention training available to schools, businesses, and government departments.
In May the Civil Aviation Authority released a Transport Ministry-ordered independent review that found the authority’s leadership failed to identify and address bullying and sexual harassment complaints.
In August an independent report criticized the Defence Force’s Operation Respect program to combat sexual violence. The operation, launched in 2016 to tackle sexual violence, harassment, and bullying within the armed forces, had no permanent manager for more than three years. The Defence Force has no comprehensive work plan to respond to recommendations in the independent report.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The government provides access to health services for survivors of sexual violence.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Under the country’s Disability Action Plan 2019-2023, the Ministry of Health examines the protective framework for the bodily integrity of children and adults with disabilities for nontherapeutic medical procedures. The Human Rights Commission expressed concern regarding informed consent and the legal permissibility of nontherapeutic medical procedures including sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government effectively enforced the law. Although the law prohibits discrimination in employment and requires equal rates of pay for equal or similar work, academics and watchdog groups argue that the lack of pay transparency hinders pursuing pay discrimination claims.
Birth Registration: Children born in the country attain citizenship if either parent is a citizen or legal permanent resident of the country. Children born outside the country attain citizenship if either parent is a citizen. The law requires notification of births by both parents as soon as “reasonably practicable,” deemed as being within two months of the child’s birth, and most births were registered within this period.
Child Abuse: The law defines and prohibits child abuse and the government effectively enforced the law. A disproportionately high percentage of children (around 70 percent) entering into homes run by Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children were Maori children. The law permits the Ministry for Children to act quickly to ensure the safety of newborn babies who are at immediate risk of serious harm, in particular from parental substance abuse, family violence, or medical neglect. Total entries to homes run by Oranga Tamariki have declined over the past decade. Children under one year old made up 23 percent of all children entering into care this year. In August the chief ombudsman reported that Oranga Tamariki had been using its powers under “interim court custody orders” too frequently to remove newborns from their parents.
The government promoted information sharing between the courts and health and child protection agencies to identify children at risk of abuse.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women, but persons between 16 and 18 may marry with family court approval. Marriages involving persons younger than 18 were rare. Watchdog groups believed that parents forced a small number of marriages of persons between the ages of 16 and 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides that any person who engages in sexual conduct with a person younger than 16–the minimum age for consensual sex–is liable to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Further, the law makes it an offense punishable by seven years’ imprisonment to assist a person younger than 18 in providing commercial sexual services; to receive earnings from commercial sexual services provided by a person younger than 18; or to contract for commercial sexual services from, or be a client of, a person younger than 18. While these statutes cover dealing in persons younger than 18 for sexual exploitation, the trafficking-in-persons statute requires a demonstration of deception or coercion to constitute a child sex-trafficking offense. The authorities may prosecute citizens who commit child sex offenses overseas, and they did so in cooperation with a number of foreign governments during the year.
Government statistics reported 382 convictions in 2019 for sexual offenses against children younger than age 16, down from an annual average of more than 450 convictions during the previous decade.
The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum 14 years’ imprisonment as well as heavy fines if a person produces, imports, supplies, distributes, possesses for supply, displays, or exhibits an objectionable publication. The Censorship Compliance Unit in the Department of Internal Affairs polices images of child sex abuse on the internet and prosecutes offenders.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at .
According to the 2018 census, the Jewish community numbered approximately 5,200, less than 0.1 percent of those declaring a religious affiliation. While anti-Semitic incidents were rare, in January a swastika was spray-painted outside the Temple Sinai Wellington Jewish Progressive Congregation, and anti-Semitic comments later appeared online.
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities–whether physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental–unless such discrimination can be “demonstrably justified.” The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Most school-age children with disabilities attended either schools dedicated to children with disabilities or mainstream schools. The unemployment rate for persons with a disability in 2019 was more than twice that of persons without a disability. Disability was the most cited ground in complaints of alleged unlawful discrimination to the Human Rights Commission in 2019.
The Human Rights Commission and the Office for Disability Issues worked to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. Both the Human Rights Commission and the Mental Health Commission addressed mental disabilities in their antidiscrimination efforts. Watchdog groups were concerned about compulsory assessments and treatments and the use of seclusion and restrictive practices in medical facilities, especially those involved with mental health services. Maori persons were significantly more likely to be subjected to these practices.
In August the ombudsman urged the government to fix “serious and persistent” problems at mental health units, where seclusion facilities and intensive care rooms were being used as bedrooms due to capacity issues; he stated this amounts to cruel or inhuman treatment. Previous ombudsman reports recommended such practices should stop.
In August the ombudsman published results of preliminary inspections of six elder-care facilities, undertaken “to ensure that measures taken to mitigate COVID-19 were not having a detrimental impact on the treatment and conditions of [elderly] residents.” The report was broadly positive but made four recommendations across two facilities to improve practices and 21 suggestions for improvement across all six of the facilities inspected. There were an estimated 5,000 elderly residents in private and public secure dementia units and psychogeriatric units.
Approximately 20 percent of eligible voters had a disability and faced obstacles to exercising their voting rights. The Electoral Commission has a statutory obligation to administer the electoral system impartially and seeks to reduce barriers to participation by developing processes that enable citizens with disabilities to access electoral services fully. The commission’s Access 2020 Disability Strategy attempted to “identify and reduce barriers that disabled people may encounter when enrolling and voting at elections.”
Pacific Islanders comprised 8 percent of the population in 2018. They experienced some societal discrimination and had higher-than-average rates of unemployment (6.4 percent) and among the lowest labor force participation (64 percent) of any ethnic group.
Several government ministries, such as the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and the Ministry of Health, had programs to identify gaps in delivery of government services to Pacific Islanders and to promote their education, employment, entrepreneurship, culture, languages, and identity. The Office of Ethnic Affairs within the Department of Internal Affairs focused on improving dialogue and understanding about minority communities among the wider population.
Asians, who comprised 15 percent of the population, reported some societal discrimination. In its 2019 annual report, the Human Rights Commission stated that more than 30 percent of inquiries and complaints of alleged unlawful discrimination raised with the commission related to race, racial harassment, or racial disharmony. In May the commission said it had received race-based complaints and inquiries related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It noted a rise in bullying and harassment of persons of Chinese and Asian descent. The commission launched a website to help persons understand their rights during the pandemic.
In August the race relations commissioner rebuked a South Island regional council chairman who publicly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” The council chairman stood by his comments, saying anyone who believes the term “Chinese virus” to be racist needs to stop “being so bloody precious…It’s not racist at all, we all know where it started.”
In July, Xi Weigo and Wang Lecheng, members of the country’s Chinese dissident community, were killed in a car crash; a third activist, Hongming (Freeman) Yu, was seriously injured. The three were part of a group of eight Chinese activists traveling to parliament to protest the Chinese Communist Party’s influence and interference in New Zealand and to deliver a petition calling on the government to place further focus on Chinese state political interference in the country. Several government agencies were investigating but have not announced any definitive conclusions. The fact that the Chinese diaspora community believed that agents from or affiliated with the People’s Republic of China caused this accident and other acts of intimidation against the Chinese and Uighur diaspora in New Zealand demonstrated a clear concern about interference by outside actors.
Approximately 16.5 percent of the population claims descent from the indigenous Maori group. The government bestows specific recognition and rights, enshrined in law, custom, and practice, to Maori persons. These rights derive from the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, the country’s founding document, which guarantees autonomy, self-determination, sovereignty, and self-government to Maori persons.
The law prohibits discrimination against the indigenous population, but there were disproportionately high numbers of Maori persons on unemployment and welfare rolls, in prison, among school dropouts, and in single-parent households. Maori persons have elevated infant mortality statistics. Maori persons experienced some societal discrimination and had the highest rates of unemployment–6.7 percent, above the country’s average of 3.9 percent–and a labor force participation rate of 62 percent, below the country’s average of 69 percent.
To redress historic violations by the government of the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, a multiyear process (the Waitangi Tribunal, a standing commission of inquiry) established in 1975 adjudicated claims by various Maori groups (iwi). The tribunal makes recommendations on claims brought by Maori relating to legislation, policies, actions, or omissions of the government that are alleged to breach the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi. The government continued active negotiations with almost all iwi that made claims.
Maori persons comprised 52 percent of the prison population and 46 percent of persons serving community-based sentences. In 2019 the corrections minister stated his “top priority has been to address the significant over-representation of Maori in prisons and on community sentences and orders.” He announced the launch of Hokai Rangi, a five-year strategy to reduce the number of Maori persons in prison to 16 percent. The strategy, codesigned with the Maori community, aims to improve rehabilitation and reintegration outcomes.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults older than 16. The law prohibits abuse, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the government enforced the law. According to the Ministry of Justice’s most recent Crime and Victims Survey (October 2018-September 2019), gay, lesbian, or bisexual adults had more than twice the average likelihood of experiencing intimate partner violence and sexual violence.