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Coalition for Safe Families - Anti Fathers' Group Propaganda

Text of a flier handed out at the 2001 Father & Child Trust Social Policy Forum by members of the Coalition for Safe (ie: fatherless) Families and Rape Crisis, and at a Union of Fathers demonstration in Cuba Mall by Paul Prestige, Executive Officer of the National Network of Stopping Violence Services.



Paul Prestige, Executive Officer of the National Network of Stopping Violence Services staging his one-man counter protest.

Text on the yellow flier:


"Men's rights" groups in New Zealand - What is the truth?

Over the last year there has been a lot of debate about Family Court matters, the rights of parents and the needs of children.

There has been criticism of laws, which are designed to protect women and children from violence in the home. Some men’s rights groups argue that the family court needs to be opened up, a few politicians want to give greater custody rights to fathers, others advocate cutting access to the DPB, a benefit which is vital for single mothers and their children.

Some of the strongest criticisms have come from “fathers’ rights” groups who have put forward a number of claims through public protest and in the media. But are they true?

Claim:            The Family Court is unfair to men

FACT

About 90% of custody and/or access cases in the Family Court are settled by agreement between the parties without any need for a decision by a Judge. In 2000 the Family Court processed 11,300 cases involving the care of children after parents separated. Only 1,150 of those cases remained unresolved after counselling and mediation. Some of those cases would have settled before the Court was required to make a decision (source: Open Letter, July 2001 www.familylaw.org.nz ).

Women are generally the main caregivers for children before separation. If women are also the main caregivers for children after separation, this reflects a continuation of pre-separation arrangements.

The claim that the family court is biased against men has been consistently rejected by Chief Family Court Judge Patrick Mahoney (see, Evening Post article, 7 August 2001, page 7), who says that the only bias in the Family Court is in favour of children. This “bias” in favour of children is required by section 23(1) of the Guardianship Act, which requires that the Court “regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration” in cases involving custody, access or guardianship.

Claim:            The Domestic Violence Act is unfair to men

FACT

The Domestic Violence Act, in itself, is gender-neutral legislation (it covers women, children and men in domestic relationships, including family relationships such as parents and children, and same sex relationships). Domestic violence, including abuse of children, is a serious problem in New Zealand. The Domestic Violence Act provides effective protection for the victims of domestic violence and is supported by those working in this area, such as Womens Refuge and Violence Intervention Programmes.

It has been argued that because protection orders and other parts of the Domestic Violence Act are used mainly by women this is a demonstration of the Act's bias. However the New Zealand Law Commission's Report ("Some Criminal Defences with Particular Reference to Battered Defendants Defendants”) states "The approach throughout this project has been gender neutral. It is incontestable, however that the large majority of adult victims of serious domestic violence have been women and their abusers have been men.

Claim: Women are more violent than men

FACT

The research that the men’s rights groups quote is based on a type of surveying called the conflict tactic scales. This type of research measures acts of violence used by husband or wife in conflict resolution but not their cause. For example was an act of violence used in self-defence or to control and intimidate someone? Equally this type of research ignores effect: a slap that breaks someone’s jaw or causes them to fail down the stairs is reported as equal to a slap that may not leave a mark. The creators of this type of research have since acknowledged its shortcomings in painting a real picture of domestic violence. (See Lollies at a Children’s Party and other Myths: Violence, protection orders and fathers rights groups. Miranda Kaye and Julie Tolmie)

In New Zealand National Crime Statistics, police call out data and criminal victimisation surveys all give a very high proportion of men as perpetrators and women as victims of domestic violence. Also studies show that women have a significantly increased risk of injury from domestic disputes compared to men (See Law Commission report “Some Criminal Defences with Particular Reference to Battered Defendants “)

Claim:    The children of absent fathers are disadvantaged

The claims made by Men’s Rights Groups about the adverse effects on children of an absent father are misleading. They focus on men’s rights rather than the welfare of children and the rights of children to be treated as individuals with individual needs and wishes.

Firstly, if parents separate, the vast majority of children continue to have contact with both their father and their mother either by simple agreement or Family Court order.

Secondly, the research quoted by Men’s Rights Groups usually comes from overseas where father absence has been due to adoption, desertion or death of the father. Fathers who want contact with their children will almost always be supported in this in New Zealand. The main exception will be where contact puts children at risk of violence or abuse. The research on the adverse effects on children of domestic violence is overwhelming (see, for example the summary in Butterworths Family Law in New Zealand 9th edition Volume 1, page 523).

Thirdly, research (David Fergusson’s Christchurch Health and Development Study) shows that the “evidence certainly does not support strong claims that single parenthood or father absence make a major contribution to the educational achievement or social adjustment of children. ... [I]t would be unwise to elevate single parenthood or father absence to being either a major cause of childhood difficulties or being a key policy variable in addressing these issues.”

 

Produced by the Coalition for Safe Families

P0 Box 6487

Te Aro

Wellington

Distributed by Paul Prestige

National Network of Stopping Violence Services
PO Box 10 632, Wellington
(04) 499 6384        MOB: (025) 529 556
Email: [email protected]

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