In New Zealand this week, several female MPs were asked to leave parliament after disclosing they were survivors of sexual assault, comments ruled out of order by the Speaker. To understand why the incident unfolded, context is key: New Zealanders are being held on Christmas Island by the Australian government, who employ an immigration policy implemented last December that allows for the cancellation of visas for those who committed certain crimes. Australian treasurer and former immigration minister Scott Morrison justified the law, telling The Guardian, “At the end of the day, if you’re here on a visa and you’ve committed sexual assault, if you’re a gangster, if you’re a bikie gang member, if you’ve engaged in physical assault or murder or something like that, you’ve worn out your welcome in this country. I don’t care how long you’ve been here.”
Here’s where the parliament row comes into play: because some of the New Zealanders being held are petty criminals, not rapists or murderers, politicians like N.Z. Labour leader Andrew Little oppose the detainment and raised concerns in parliament. N.Z. prime minister Key told Little, “You back the rapists.”
“Some of the [detainees] are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers,” Key said. “These are the people that the Labour party are saying are more important to support than New Zealanders who deserve protecting when they come back here,” he said, before being cut off by the Speaker.
Key’s remarks offended Green party co-leader Metiria Turei, who told the Speaker, “As the victim of a sexual assault, I take personal offence at the prime minister’s comments, and ask that you require him to withdraw and apologize.”
Green MP Catherine Delahunty, Labour’s Nanaia Mahuta, Clare Curran and Megan Woods, who were told they were “flouting the rules” and asked to stop, joined her. Green MP Marama Davidson or Poto Williams also raised their voices and were kicked out of parliament. At least eight other women then chose to leave the chamber, joined by four male MPs.
“We’ve walked out because every woman in this country needs to know that women parliamentarians will not put up with this,” Green MP Catherine Delahunty said. “We will not stand by and allow this to be bandied around parliament – this kind of abuse of people and way of approaching rape is simply unacceptable, and the prime minister has to be held to account.”
Their walk-out has been received warmly by advocates against sexual assault on social media.
Read the full story on The Guardian.