After the murders of two migrant women in Wellington due to domestic violence ( Sarwan Lata Singh and Mei Fan) Shakti Wellington opened a refuge in 2014. Last year it it helped over 350 women, with over 200 of their referrals coming from the police. Shakti advocates say they need government funding because of the growing migrant population and because their safe house is at full capacity.
Shakti Community Council is a non-profit organisation serving migrant and refugee women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin. Shakti; meaning strength; works to end all forms of violence and discrimination against women of colour. It supports women to overcome the barriers that come with migration and inter-generational bonds of cultural oppression. Led by ethnic women for ethnic women, Shakti is dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights of both women and children and advocating social change.
The government do not fund the safe house despite the government being responsible for the increase in the migrant and refugee population. By increasing the migrant and refugee population they are also increasing the amount of domestic violence.
As the women at Shakti point out in the radio interview, “one size does not fit all” as these women come from a different culture and have a ” different worldview” and have traditional and cultural barriers that they face so mainstream safe houses are not suitable for them. What they will not spell out but what is pretty obvious to me is that they are talking about Muslim migrant women and Muslim refugee women.
It is worth considering that although domestic violence occurs in families from many different ethnicities in New Zealand none of them requires their own special refuge to deal with their ” different worldview.” Ethnicity is clearly not the problem. The problem is the religion or culture of these migrant and refugee women.
The government funded a study by Shakti which found that the Wellington region needs a culturally specialist refuge but despite this finding, it is still not funding it. The government’s stance is that they already fund refuge centres all over New Zealand and the migrant and refugee women should use those centres.
The Shakti staff interviewed on radio NZ explained the many problems that the women they help face.
- new to NZ
- language barriers
- don’t have permanent residency
- immigration abuse
- dowry abuse,
- honour-based violence
- forced marriage
- underage marriage
The problems give us insight into what is being imported into our capital city when we bring in people who follow a belief system so at odds with our values of equal rights and freedom.
The Shakti staff explained why these women needed a separate refuge from the government funded ones that are all over the country for the use of women from every religion, culture and ethnicity. They said it is because they need to respond not just to their direct needs but to their cultural needs. They used words like “worldview” and “traditional barriers.” They explained that things that the women might consider ” normal” in their culture are considered oppressive in our culture. She said it is not just about keeping a person safe it is also learning to see things differently and becoming empowered. That is why she feels it is crucial that they have a specific refuge for women from
these cultures Islamic culture.
The Youth co-ordinator from Shakti said they see a lot of intergenerational conflicts when the children have grown up in New Zealand which leads to them having ” clashing worldviews” She said that it disproportionately affects young women who are “more controlled at home” She said, ” we also see forced and underage marriage.” This is Wellington New Zealand we are talking about! Forced and underage marriage happening here in New Zealand’s capital right under our government’s noses. This is shocking stuff. What is the National government going to do to protect these young women?
She pointed out that when these brave young people stand up to and leave a violent family they often have to stand up to their communities too as they end up ostracised.
Our government caused this problem by bringing in people who do not fit into our society, who can’t even share facilities with women from other religions and cultures. They need to fund Shakti and they need to stop bringing in people who bring with them increased domestic violence and ” clashing world views.”
They caused this problem now they need to fix it.