Gordon Campbell on the inadequate response to sexual violence prevention

On combatting sexual violence, the government has finally begun to undo some of the problems that were of its own making. Early in March, ACC launched the Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims scheme – a package aimed at improving the attitudes of ACC staff towards sexual violence victims, and offering them more substantive support. Hopefully, this will help to reverse the damage done with the insensitive, punitive ACC policy put in place by the incoming Key government in 2009, which in some parts of New Zealand, saw 90 per cent of sexual violence victims being turned away by ACC.

As well as this new support scheme, ACC is also increasing its annual funding of sexual violence prevention education, from a paltry $1 million to $4 million, a figure still seen as inadequate by experienced workers in the field.

In addition, Justice Minister Amy Adams has invited the Law Commission to revisit its work on possible changes to the pre-trial and courtroom procedures faced by sexual complainants. The Police however, continue to be one of the glaring problem areas. The report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority into the Police handling of the so called “Roastbusters” group in Auckland not only disagreed with the Police rationale for not initiating a prosecution under the Crimes Act – ultimately, the Police decided that a prosecution would not be in the public interest, given the young age of some of the offenders. It was a stance that completely ignored the even younger age of some of the victims.

The IPCA also faulted (as being inadequate to non-existent) the Police contact with the young men and their families. Arguably, not only was justice for the victims ill-served by the Police decision not to prosecute, but the deterrent/prevention aspect was completely neglected. In the words of the IPCA report, the Police “overlooked the importance of holding the young men accountable for their behavior, and preventing its recurrence.”

The conspicuous failure by Police over the Roastbusters incidents came despite the findings by the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police conduct (that had been initiated by the complaints made by Louise Nicholas). This inquiry had revealed a culture of misogyny and aberrant behaviour rife among the Police, at high levels of the Police hierarchy. So, unless the government is prepared to put some heat on the Police over its handling of sexual violence between adolescents and adults – and the subject was conspicuously absent from the Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Police in 2014 – then the concerns about sexual violence being expressed in Parliament this week will ring hollow.

Even the possible changes to pre-trial and courtroom treatment will not address the issue of prevention. As the initial Law Commission issues paper on those proposals pointed out, the approach being assessed “ does nothing to address the attitudes that led to the offending, and it accordingly fails to reduce the risk that the behaviour will recur.” It may seem both incredible and yet somehow unsurprising that – so long as some of the next America’s Cup racing is held in Auckland – the government would spend ten times the amount on that regatta than what ACC is currently putting into sexual violence prevention education.


Yemen at war, again

Anyone trying to make sense of the fighting in Yemen and reliant on the pundits wheeled in by CNN and the like is being told that its really, really (a) just a proxy war between the Saudi Arabia and Iran and /or (b) merely the Yemeni version of the usual Sunni vs Shi’ite sectarian conflict. The situation is way more complex than that. It goes back (at least) to the unification of the country in 1990, and the subsequent attempts to create some form of federalism acceptable to Yemen’s various tribal, geographic and religious factions.

Yes, on one level it is a battle between the recently deposed nationalists ( who are being supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States, via a regional military force comprised of inputs from Egypt, Kuwait, Turkey and other champions of liberty in something called Operation Storm of Resolve ) on one hand, and the recently successful Houthi rebels – who have indeed been getting limited support from Iran, although that was not decisive in their initial success.

Also, the Sunni/Shia divide in Yemen is unusual. The Houthis are a different strain of Shia Islam than the one in Iran – they are Zaidis, or Fiver Shia, not the Twelver variety that rules Iran. (The numbers refer to how many imams figure in the historical legacy.) As a result, the Zaidis in Yemen are actually religiously closer to the mainstream Sunnis in the region – or would be, if Saudi Arabia wasn’t following such an extreme version of the Sunni tradition.

It explains why the current political divide is so complex, and why a former Sunni military and political dictator of Yemen can readily align himself across the sectarian lines with the Houthi northerners, and against the Sunni nationalist southerners being backed by the Saudis. The best account I’ve read of the myriad internal factors at work in this war is here.

Clearly, the Saudis and their friends are not going to be able to bomb Yemen into coherence any time soon – and the current demonizing of the Houthis and their long held resentments is likely to play into the hands of Islamic State, who are so adept at capitalising on failed states.


Sly and Robbie, 40 years on

Reportedly, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have played on over 200,000 recordings….now, nearly 40 years after their breakthrough Right Time album with the Mighty Diamonds, Sly and Robbie continue to rack up the hits. This track “Shotta” by No Maddz has been a recent number one single in Jamaica…It may not be their finest work, but good to see that they’re still finding an audience.

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