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.
Reported rates of violence against women remained at high levels, according to domestic and international observers. Ministry of Justice data for 2020-21 showed convictions for sexual offenses increased slightly from 2019-20. According to the ministry’s most recent annual Crime and Victims Survey (October 2019-September 2020) approximately 2 percent of adults had experienced sexual violence in the previous 12 months; this figure did not change significantly from previous years. The report, however, described “worryingly low levels” of reporting of sexual violence, noting that “94 percent of sexual assaults were not reported to Police.” 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.
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 names 10 government agencies and a range of social service practitioners as family violence agencies; provides principles to guide decision making and timely responses across agencies; and allows information sharing between agencies to increase victims’ safety.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, requires employers to ensure their workplace is free of behaviors that are unwelcome or offensive, and provides for civil proceedings in cases of workplace harassment. The government, through the Human Rights Commission, effectively enforced the law. Sexual contact induced by certain threats also carries 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.
After media reports in June revealed incidents of alleged sexual harassment in the media industry, information released under the Official Information Act showed there had been numerous incidents of alleged sexual harassment at state broadcasters Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand, as well as at several private broadcasters, in the last year. Two workers and one external contractor were asked to leave Television New Zealand due to sexual misconduct.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
In 2020 the Human Rights Commission expressed concern about informed consent and the legal permissibility of nontherapeutic medical procedures including sterilization. Under the country’s Disability Action Plan 2019-2023, the Ministries of Health and of Social Development examined the legal framework that protects the bodily integrity of children and adults with disabilities for nontherapeutic medical procedures.
The government provides access to health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.
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, in August Statistics New Zealand identified a gender pay gap of 9 percent between women and men. Academics and watchdog groups argued that the lack of pay transparency hindered pursuing pay discrimination claims.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
Under the law violence and discrimination against racial or ethnic minorities is prohibited; the government enforced these laws effectively.
In its 2020 annual report, the Human Rights Commission stated that approximately 12 percent of complaints of alleged unlawful discrimination raised with the commission related to race, racial harassment, or racial disharmony.
Pacific Islanders were 8 percent of the population in the 2018 census. They experienced some societal discrimination and had higher-than-average rates of unemployment (7.8 percent in June) and among the lowest labor force participation (66 percent) of any ethnic group.
Several government ministries, including 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. After the country’s first Delta-variant COVID-19 outbreak in August, which disproportionately affected Pacific Island and Maori communities, some Pacific Islander and health practitioners criticized the government and media for inadequately addressing low vaccination rates in their communities.
In July the Ministry for Ethnic Communities was created to focus on promoting diversity and improving minority communities’ inclusion in the wider society and their economic outcomes.
Asians, who were 15 percent of the population, reported some societal discrimination. Advocacy groups noted a rise in bullying and harassment of persons of Asian, especially Chinese, descent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Human Rights Commission launched a website to help Asian persons understand their rights during the pandemic.
Approximately 16.5 percent of the population claimed descent from the indigenous Maori people. The government bestows specific recognition and rights, enshrined in law, custom, and practice, on 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 higher rates of unemployment than non-Maori – 7.8 percent in June, above the country’s average of 3.9 percent – and a labor force participation rate of 68 percent, below the country’s average of 70 percent.
To redress historic violations by the government of the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Waitangi Tribunal, a standing commission of inquiry adjudicates 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.
As of June, Maori persons were 53 percent of the prison population and 46.5 percent of persons serving community-based sentences. In February several prisoners’ rights activists questioned the progress of Hokai Rangi, a five-year strategy launched in 2019 by the corrections minister aimed at reducing the number of Maori persons in prison.
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. The government promoted information sharing between the courts and health and child protection agencies to identify children at risk of abuse.
The law permits the Ministry for Children to act quickly to ensure the safety of newborn babies at immediate risk of serious harm, notably from parental substance abuse, family violence, or medical neglect. Admissions to Care and Protection Residences run by the ministry have declined over the past decade. A disproportionately high percentage of children (approximately 60 percent) entering children’s ministry homes were Maori. Children less than five years old made up 30 percent of all children entering into care.
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 several foreign governments during the year.
Government statistics reported 363 convictions in 2020 for sexual offenses against children younger than age 16, down from more than 380 convictions during the previous year.
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.
Institutionalized Children: In March inspectors from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner heard “serious allegations” of staff bullying, excessive use of force, and inappropriate use of isolation while visiting Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection Residences. The commissioner’s report stated there was not enough evidence to prove the allegations, but neither could they show the allegations were false.
In July the ministry announced the closure of the Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection Residence in Christchurch; media reported “a number of serious issues involving staff,” including physical restraint of children, were investigated. In September the children’s minister accepted the findings of a ministerial advisory board that he had appointed earlier in the year to recommend ways to improve the ministry’s “disconnected” relationship with Maori communities.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
According to the 2018 census, the Jewish community numbered approximately 5,200. While anti-Semitic incidents remained relatively rare, in June the New Zealand Jewish Council expressed concern over the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the previous year. “2020 saw 33 anti-Semitic incidents recorded (including anti-Semitic comments online), the highest number since records began in 1990,” the council said.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
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 2020 was 8 percent, twice that of persons without a disability. Unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability was the second most cited cause of complaints to the Human Rights Commission in 2020.
The Human Rights Commission and the Ministry for Disabled People, created in late October, 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 highlighted “serious and persistent” problems at mental health units, contrasting the results of simultaneous inspections at two colocated facilities, one where seclusion or restraint facilities were being used and one where no seclusion was used – described as “best practice in the treatment of those detained.” Several previous ombudsman reports recommended that such practices should stop.
Approximately 20 percent of eligible voters had a disability and potentially faced obstacles in 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.
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 2019-September 2020), gay, lesbian, or bisexual adults had more than twice the average likelihood of experiencing intimate partner violence and sexual violence.