The Minister for Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence has walked back a comment she says was made under duress that “white cis men” are the main cause of violence in the world.
Marama Davidson, who is also Green Party co-leader, was facing flak from political opponents, calling for her to resign after making the comment on Saturday when confronted at a trans rights rally in Auckland, which acted as a counter-protest to a speaking event by British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull - also known as “Posie Parker”.
During the event, Davidson was injured after she was struck down by a motorbike.
Shortly after that incident, Davidson was asked on camera what she thought about Keen-Minshull being “violently assaulted”, after having tomato juice poured over her.
Davidson appeared visibly shaken after the motorbike incident and, accompanied by fellow Green MP Jan Logie, said they were there to “reject the violence and hate of transphobia”.
“We are here to raise love for our trans people and community above hate and I am so proud of the mobilising of people from across so many communities to stand in strong solidarity because trans people are terrific.
“Trans people are a taonga... and trans people are tired of being oppressed and discriminated.
“I am a prevention violence minister, and I know what causes violence in this world and it’s white cis men.
“It is white cis men who cause violence in the world.”
Davidson today said after the incident with the motorcyclist she was “not as clear in my comments... as I should have been”, indicating her intention was to say it was not trans people who were causing violence but cis men in general.
“I should have made clear in my comments that violence happens in every community. My intention was to affirm that trans people are deserving of support and to keep the focus on the fact that men are the main perpetrators of violence.”
She said she was “still in shock” and was not as clear as she should have been.
“Violence is unacceptable in any community and as the minister responsible for Aotearoa’s first-ever plan to eliminate family violence and sexual violence, I am committed to an Aotearoa where all people are safe and can live peaceful lives.”
Davidson said she had been hit by a motorcyclist at a pedestrian crossing.
“The person who hit me was part of a convoy of motorcyclists.
“A short time after the incident, I was confronted by a representative from the far-right and conspiracy theory website Counterspin who was filming me walking down the road before accosting me with inflammatory questions.
“A clip of that video is now circulating online and is being used to distract from a broader conversation about the causes of violence in Aotearoa.”
Davidson said her top priority was to support, protect and believe all victims and survivors of violence.
“Women are overwhelmingly more likely to be victims of family violence and sexual violence at the hands of men. It is also important to acknowledge the disproportionate impact violence has on our rainbow whānau and diverse communities.
“I will continue to stand with my trans and non-binary whānau and support action to ensure that everyone can live their lives without fear of hate or discrimination.”
Davidson also commented in the video how the concept of binary genders was not in the Māori world prior to colonisation.
“Trans women are women. Te reo Māori was never so boring as binary. I am tangata whenua, and I say transphobia is not welcome here.”
Act Party leader David Seymour said Davidson should be fired for her comments if she could not provide evidence behind them.
He said it was not helpful to victims to make the conversation about race.
“Davidson’s comments are outrageous and extremely inappropriate for a minister that is responsible for reducing family violence and harm.
“Family violence and harm does not discriminate and her obvious bias against one race is deeply troubling.”
Seymour pointed to the Cabinet Manual, which lays out responsibilities for ministers, and includes “exercising a professional approach and good judgement.
“No reasonable person can credibly claim that Davidson’s rant ‘exercised a professional approach and good judgement’,” Seymour said.
New Zealand First leader and former MP Winston Peters called for Davidson to resign, calling her comments “offensive, racist, and sexist”.
“Cis” is short for cisgender, which describes people whose sex at birth aligns with their gender identity. It is the opposite of transgender.
As Minister for Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, Davidson is responsible for a national strategy to eliminate family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa, Te Aorerekura.
Police respond to a family harm incident every four minutes, and in the year to June 2021 there were an estimated 168,000 sexual assault offences on adults.
A piece of research from the United States suggests white cis males are the largest group of suspected rape perpetrators referred to prosecutors in that country.
Ministry of Justice victimisation statistics show women and children bear the brunt of the violence, with Māori and Pasifika and the disabled disproportionately impacted.
Trans and non-binary people experience also higher rates of sexual violence than women or men in the general population.
Gay, lesbian or bisexual adults are more than twice as likely than heterosexual adults to be victimised through intimate partner violence and sexual violence.
Women’s Refuge chief executive Ang Jury told the Herald it was “not useful” to look at violence causes singularly in terms of race.
“She could have been more measured, there are obviously more causes out there than cis white males.
“But the minister might have been speaking at a time of duress,” she said, referring to the motorcycle incident.
Jury said there was however “little disagreement” about the role the patriarchy, heteronormativity and colonisation all play - all related to “cis white males.
“There does need to be a distinction between cause and perpetrators. There are really broad structural things that contribute to violence, and then there are those people impacted by those systems who use violence.”
Jury said she was confident in the Minister and that she was “doing pretty well” in her portfolio, including getting the 25-year strategy Te Aorerekura under way.
* This article has been updated to clarify that the international research quoted refers to the United States only.