Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, including spousal rape. The government enforced this law effectively. 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.
In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the country has a high rate of intimate partner violence against women. The most recent data available from the Ministry of Justice (2021-22) showed convictions for sexual offenses increased slightly from the previous year, although the trend over the last decade was a significant decline. According to the ministry’s most recent annual Crime and Victims Survey (November 2020-November 2021) published in June, approximately 2 percent of adults experienced sexual violence in the previous 12 months; this figure did not change significantly from previous years. More than 75 percent of all sexual assaults were against women, and women were three times more likely than men to have experienced sexual violence. Approximately 35 percent of women experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. The report stated that “large proportions of both sexual assaults and offenses by family members are not reported to the Police.”
Domestic violence is a criminal offense. Police were responsive to reports of domestic violence and the government enforced the law effectively. Women were almost four times more likely than men to have experienced intimate partner violence. The law provides survivors with 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. The government partially funded women’s shelters, psychosocial services, rape crisis centers, sexual abuse counseling, violence prevention services, and family-violence victim support networks. Survivor’s programs included: 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 female and 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; provides principles to guide decision making and timely responses across agencies; and allows information sharing between agencies to increase survivors’ safety.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Employers are required to ensure their workplace is free of behaviors that are unwelcome or offensive and provides for civil proceedings. Sexual contact induced by certain threats also carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The government, through the HRC, effectively enforced the law.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
The government provides access to health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.
In 2021 the Health Care Quality and Safety Commission identified noteworthy racial disparities in the issuance of oral contraceptives.
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 a wage gap persists between men and women in the workplace (see section 7.d.).
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 most recent annual report (2020-21), the HRC stated that the majority of complaints of alleged unlawful discrimination raised with it related to race, racial harassment, or racial disharmony.
Pacific Islanders were 8 percent of the population in the most recent national census (2018). They experienced some societal discrimination and had higher-than-average rates of unemployment and among the lowest labor force participation of any ethnic group (see section 7.d.). 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.
Asians, who were 15 percent of the population, reported some societal discrimination. During the COVID-19 pandemic the HRC launched a website to help Asian persons understand their rights, after it noted a rise in bullying and harassment of persons of Asian descent. The Ministry for Ethnic Communities, created in 2021 to promote diversity and improve minority communities’ social inclusion and economic outcomes, provided a range of services and products for marginalized ethnic communities.
In February a verbal and physical assault on a Muslim student at the Otago Girls’ High School, which was filmed and circulated widely on social media, led to the expulsion of two students. In March the University of Otago published a report acknowledging “serious and confronting” instances of systemic racism within the institution.
Approximately 16.5 percent of the population in the 2018 census claimed descent from the 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 foundational document, which guarantees autonomy, self-determination, sovereignty, and self-government to Maori persons.
The law prohibits discrimination against the indigenous population, but Maori persons experienced some societal discrimination and disproportionately high numbers of Maori persons were on welfare rolls, in prison, among school dropouts, and in single-parent households. Maori persons have elevated infant mortality statistics. Maori persons also had higher rates of unemployment than non-Maori – 5.5 percent in June, above the country’s average of 3.3 percent – and a labor force participation rate of 69 percent, below the country’s average of 71.3 percent (see section 7.d.).
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.
Maori persons were 53 percent of the prison population and nearly 50 percent of persons serving community-based sentences. Prisoners’ rights activists continued to question 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 newborns at immediate risk of serious harm, notably from parental substance abuse, family violence, or medical neglect. While 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 younger than age five 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. The NGO Tahiri Justice Center 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. During a court case in August, however, an offender who was found guilty of 33 charges of sexual abuse against two girls younger than 16, claimed one of the girls was a consenting partner. The claim highlighted a loophole allowing consent as a legal defense available to those charged with statutory rape.
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.
Government statistics reported 407 convictions in 2021 for sexual offenses against children younger than age 16, an increase on the previous year, although the trend has been broadly stable over the last 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.
Institutionalized Children: In 2021 inspectors from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner reported hearing “serious allegations” that staff at the Ministry for Children Care and Protection Residences bullied children and used excessive force, including inappropriate restraint techniques and isolation. After investigating, in March the commissioner’s report stated there was not enough evidence to prove or disprove the allegations.
On August 24 parliament adopted a law for the oversight of the Children’s Ministry and the Children and Young People’s Commission. The new legislation replaces the children’s commissioner with a board of representatives to monitor the ministry. Critics claimed it would enshrine state immunity from legal liability in individual cases. To prepare for the legislation and an expected increase in complaints, in August the Office of the Ombudsman set up a Children in Care Complaints Team.
In August the government announced that work had begun on three of the team’s priority recommendations: speeding up compensation payments for claimants; a new confidential national listening service; and easier access for survivors to records of their time in care.
According to the 2018 census, the Jewish community numbered approximately 5,200. While antisemitic incidents remained relatively rare, in March the New Zealand Jewish Council published its Survey of Antisemitism in New Zealand 2021, which noted “a sharp rise in the number of reported antisemitic incidents in the past few years.” In June the council expressed concern over a rise in online antisemitic content, which “poses real danger” and “can create conditions which incite real violence.”
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between individuals older than 16.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: According to the Ministry of Justice’s Crime and Victims Survey (November 2020-November 2021), adults identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or having other diverse sexualities had more than twice the average likelihood of experiencing intimate partner violence and sexual violence.
Discrimination: The law prohibits abuse, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the government enforced the law.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Individuals seeking to amend the sex recorded on their birth certificates must go to the Family Court or have medical treatment to physically conform with the sex they want listed on their birth certificate. The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act of 2021 (scheduled to enter into effect in 2023) would introduce a self-identification process to amend the sex recorded on birth certificates.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: In February parliament enacted the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Act. It prohibits conversion practices from being performed on anyone younger than 18 and criminalizes causing serious harm by performing a conversion practice done with the intention of changing or suppressing a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The act also allows for civil redress for victims of conversion practices.
Non-lifesaving surgical procedures on intersex children for the purpose of “normalizing” gender appearance are legal in the country and occur. In March the government allocated more than 2.5 million New Zealand dollars ($1.54 million) to introduce a new human rights-based approach to medical care for intersex youth, aimed at improving support and “preventing unnecessary medical interventions from occurring.”
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no reports of such restrictions.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. 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. According to Statistics NZ, more than 30 percent of youth (aged 15-24) with disabilities were not in education, employment, or training, compared with only 10 percent of the general population. The unemployment rate for persons with a disability in June 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 HRC in 2020-21 (the most recent figures available) (see section 7.d.).
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.