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Martyn Bradbury: Women - your votes are vital this year

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David Cunliffe was criticised after apologising for being a man. Photo / Mark Mitchell
David Cunliffe was criticised after apologising for being a man. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Pundits and talkback radio callers couldn't trip over invisible privilege fast enough this week as a knee-jerk backlash against David Cunliffe's heartfelt apology at a domestic violence symposium was turned into a "not-all-men-are-rapists" argument or a "men-get-sexually-abused-too" debate.

"I don't often say it - I'm sorry for being a man, because family and sexual violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men." This genuine statement of remorse for New Zealand's staggeringly high domestic violence rate was decried by some commentators as disingenuous. Those of us comfortable in our masculinity can look beyond the personal offence semantics and respect Cunliffe's political courage. Every man should feel sorry for the tens of thousands of women who never see justice in our courts for rapes and sexual assaults against them. Every man should feel sorry that 35 Kiwis are killed in domestic violence-related crime annually.

Every man should feel sorry that 20,000 women and children sought refuge last year. Because 84 per cent of convicted domestic violence is male on female. That isn't to diminish the men assaulted by women, but it is important to accept we have a problem of violence against women and paying lip service to that culture of violence isn't enough.

Labour's attempt to challenge that lip service via a real desire for gender equality has seen a sexist counter-narrative . "Manban" and "female dominated" have been headlines used to rob women of their platform to have their say. Who women vote for will be essential to who wins in September and Labour's strong stand on women's rights coupled with their baby bonus, extra maternity leave, donation-free schools, iPads for every student, $16 minimum wage and smaller class sizes can rally that female vote and gain Labour the 32 per cent needed to make a Parliamentary majority, if Greens gain 15 per cent and Internet Mana 3.5 per cent.

Women fought to gain the vote here first; 121 years ago Kate Sheppard must have hoped for far more progress for her great-great-great-great granddaughters. Our sisters, wives, mothers, daughters, aunts, girlfriends, cousins, grandmothers and friends are working long and hard hours for less money on average than men. The least we can collectively do is support real political change.

After the ugly wound the Roast Buster scandal revealed, progressives this election must consider women's rights when voting.

- Herald on Sunday

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