The White Ribbon Campaign responds to comments made by the Prime Minister

White Ribbon Responds to PMs commentsRecent comments by Prime Minister John Key, a White Ribbon Ambassador, accusing other members of parliament of supporting rapists has understandably caused great offence to many people, men and women alike.

The comments do not reflect the Kaupapa of White Ribbon and do not support our efforts to engage with men (which includes working and speaking to perpetrators and former perpetrators) across New Zealand. These are men that must be encouraged to change their attitudes and behaviour and the work of those who deal with these men should not be disparaged. Nor should the former perpetrators who now dedicate their lives to ensuring their appalling choices are not repeated by other men.

The central tenet of the White Ribbon campaign is that we must ‘never commit condone or remain silent about violence towards women’. Our supporters have sent the White Ribbon trustees a clear message that they expect us to honour this pledge. We have heard that call and we agree, so we will be contacting the Prime Minister’s office outlining our concerns.

We also note that White Ribbon has been and must remain apolitical.  We have a single focus – that is, highlighting the issue of men’s violence towards women in this country; calling for an end to this terrible blight on our society; and asking all men (and women) to join together to take responsibility for the issue, personally and collectively, in order to create a society in New Zealand where this form of violence is eliminated.

The White Ribbon Trust asks all our supporters to keep this important goal in mind.

The sad irony is that this matter has erupted in November, the very month where we are all focusing on the issue of violence in our country. Equally ironic is that our campaign theme for 2015 is based on respectful relationships. It is a powerful and relevant theme and White Ribbon supporters around the country have been working hard to achieve what we hope will be our most successful campaign ever. Comments made by others – even the Prime Minister – should not, and must not distract us from our collective goal and passion.

White Ribbon Trustees, on behalf of all our supporters, will be raising our concerns. We will also be discussing our expectations of White Ribbon Ambassadors – all of whom have committed to White Ribbon. We will not remain silent. But we are also firmly focused on how we can best work with our dedicated and passionate volunteer supporters to achieve our goals – the long- term goal of eliminating violence towards women, and our immediate goal of delivering a powerful campaign this November to once again bring this issue into focus for all New Zealanders.

We understand and support those who feel that accusing others of supporting those who have exhibited violent behaviour is unacceptable. It is a serious matter, regardless of where these comments are made. We also understand those who have called for action on this issue. We believe the best action is to continue what we have all committed to doing – take collective actions as individuals and communities to highlight the issue of men’s violence against women – in fact all forms of violence in our communities. Together, we have come a long way on this journey. Together, let us re-commit to continuing to strengthen the gains we have made.

Ric Odom
White Ribbon Trust Chair

Update: 9/12/15
Prime Minister John Key has apologised for accusing the Opposition of “backing the rapists” after refusing to do so for a month.

Key kicked off Question Time on Wednesday by saying he had reflected on his comments and “on the last sitting day of the year so close to Christmas I’d like to withdraw and apologise”.

MPs from both the Greens and the Labour Party applauded Key for his apology

Last month Key sparked walkouts two days in a row after saying Labour was “backing the rapists”, as well as murderers and child molesters, among Kiwi detainees at the Christmas Island detention centre.

Following the comments most Labour MPs left the debating chamber and the next day when Key refused again to apologise at least 12 female MPs either walked out or were asked to leave after standing one by one in defiance of Speaker David Carter.

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