For release: Fri, 7 December 2018
On 21 January 2019 New Zealand undergoes the 32nd Universal Periodic Review of our compliance to CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Te Whariki Takapou, in collaboration with Family Planning, is pleased to advocate for rights for all Māori women so as to enhance our rangatiratanga. Thank you Carrie Shelver and the SRI (Sexual Rights Institute) for promoting our Advocacy Statement to delegates from United Nation member states in Geneva.
32nd Session Universal Periodic Review of New Zealand
Realising sexual and reproductive health and rights is central to fulfilling the full range of human rights. New Zealand has not prioritised the sexual and reproductive health and rights of its citizen, particularly for young people, women and Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Comprehensive sexuality education is widely accepted as a critical education need of young people and Māori and is fundamental to young people’s rights to health and education. In New Zealand the requirement is for sexuality education to be taught in all English and Māori-medium schools up to and including year 10 (about age 14) as part of the health and physical education area of the national curriculum. A 2018 review of sexuality education by the Education Review Office (ERO) of English-medium schools found little consistency in how sexuality education is taught, with nearly half of schools struggling to teach this area of the curriculum. Māori young people – alongside Pacific young people, LGBTQI and young people with learning needs – were particularly underserved by current approaches.
Recommendation: Develop a national, strategic, integrated approach to sexuality and relationships education for English and Māori-medium schools. The Ministry of Education, as the critical stakeholder, should provide leadership so funding and resources enable the implementation of the national guidelines for sexuality education. Implementation should be cost-effective, sustainable and teachers and schools well-supported with ongoing professional development so they can effectively implement this area of the national curriculum for all.
Data and research: The lack of data and research about sexual and reproductive health in New Zealand is significant. For example, there has been no national data published about contraceptive use in New Zealand since the 1990s. The analysis of national sexually transmitted infection surveillance data, which is intended as an annual report, has not been published since 2015. Māori women are over-represented, as are low income women, among women with chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections (<29 years), and women with reproductive health issues, including poor access to contraception and high rates of abortion. Quantitative and qualitative research is urgently required to understand the epidemiology of Māori women’s poor sexual and reproductive health and identify multi-sector systems-level responses to achieve equitable outcomes. Access to up-to-date periodic survey data for the Māori population by gender, age and ethnicity is critical to achieving equitable outcomes.
Recommendation: Commission up-to-date, population-specific qualitative and quantitative data for sexual and reproductive health issues including key periodic surveys to provide a current body of evidence on the sexual and reproductive health and behaviours of New Zealanders. This data must be able to be disaggregated and analysed by ethnicity, age and gender so that inequity can be identified, monitored and addressed through evidence-based policy decisions.
Equitable access to sexual and reproductive health services – including contraception and abortion: Research has found that most teenage Māori mothers had sought contraception pre and post conception. However, “contraception use was compromised by a lack of information, negative side effects, and limited follow up.” Māori women are over-represented in abortion statistics. Higher pregnancy and STI rates indicate that timely access to universally available, culturally responsive contraceptive and reproductive health services is lacking for this priority group. Research indicates that 40% of all pregnancies in New Zealand are unplanned. There are clear, rights-based imperatives for New Zealand women to have universal access to a full range of contraceptives, including long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). Laws overseeing abortion do not recognise women’s autonomy in reproductive decision-making and curtail women’s access to the best available health care. The Government initiated a review of abortion law early this year and is currently considering options for a decriminalised legal framework for abortion.
- Prioritise sexual and reproductive health and rights – particularly for young people, Māori, and women and girls – through government targets and budget allocations that reflect the significance of good sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. Provide universal access to sexual and reproductive health services.
- Initiate multi-sector, systems-level actions to address the intersecting forms of discrimination which hinder Māori women and girls’ access to equitable sexual and reproductive health outcomes.
- Remove abortion from the Crimes Act 1961 and amend the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 so abortion is decriminalised, treated as a health issue and managed as an integrated component of sexual and reproductive health services. Laws and regulations should enable clinical best practice standards with no other restrictions or barriers to accessing abortion.
National Planning for Sexual and Reproductive Health: There is no up-to-date national plan or strategy for sexual and reproductive health and rights in New Zealand. The last national policy statement on sexual and reproductive health was published in 2001. Recent efforts to develop a national action plan have not progressed and there are challenges.
Recommendation: Redevelop and finalise an evidence-based, best practice national plan for sexual and reproductive health and rights. The plan should include resources and mechanisms to incentivise service providers to deliver on the plan, such as incorporating outcomes into funder contracts with providers. Actions in the plan must address inequitable outcomes for priority populations – particularly Māori – and measures must effectively identify change in access to sexual and reproductive health services and sexual and reproductive health outcomes.
 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2018) International technical guidance on sexuality education: An evidence-informed approach. Revised edition. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0026/002607/260770e.pdf
 Education Review Office (2018) Promoting wellbeing through sexuality education. Retrieved from: https://www.ero.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Promoting-wellbeing-through-sexuality-education.pdf
 ESR (2018) website. Retrieved from: https://surv.esr.cri.nz/surveillance/annual_sti.php
 Morton, S.M.B., Atatoa Carr, P.E., Bandara, D.K., Grant, C.C., Ivory, V.C., Kingi, T.R., Liang, R., Perese, L.M., Peterson, E., Pryor, J.E., Reese, E., Robinson, E.M., Schmidt, J.M., and Waldie, K.E. 2010. Growing Up in New Zealand: A longitudinal study of New Zealand children and their families. Report 1: Before we are born. Auckland: Growing Up in New Zealand.