“In Iran you stone mothers; in New Zealand fathers”

When the story first broke about a New Zealand man setting himself on fire outside Parliament my first thought was that it was another mentally ill person like the man who set himself on fire inside a bank last week. In that case, the video footage suggested that he had accidentally set himself on fire while attempting to set a fire inside the bank because he thought that they had kept him waiting too long. When the truth finally came out about the man outside Parliament it suggested that something much more traumatic than simply being kept waiting too long was at the bottom of the man’s suicidal actions.

The man who died after setting himself on fire outside Parliament is understood to have come to Wellington recently to protest against his treatment by the Family Court.

[…] When he set himself on fire on Thursday afternoon, he had protest placards with him.

Witnesses said they recognised the placards as the same ones a man was seen holding outside the Supreme Court in Wellington on Wednesday.

One of those signs read: “In Iran you stone mothers; in New Zealand fathers.” Another read: “My vote No! To Family Court lawyers racket.”

The man was taken to Wellington Hospital in a critical condition on Thursday, and died overnight.

Since the incident outside Parliament, men’s rights and fathers’ rights groups have shared messages online about the man, and about what they regard as unfair Family Court decisions.

Vinay Deobhakta established a training business in Auckland called McKenzie Friend Professionals last year, in an attempt to help the increasing number of self-litigants in the Family Court to resolve custody issues.

He said many men were frustrated and disillusioned by the court, especially around custody issues.[…]

In the days when women were little more than chattels through marriage, they had zero rights when it came to divorce. If they left a marriage they not only left their husband and financial stability they were forced to leave their children behind. These days in many cases we seem to have gone from one extreme to another. Where previously men had all the power women often seem to get preferential treatment from the courts when it comes to custody of the children. It seems to have become an accepted belief that mothers are more important than fathers in a child’s life. I have even seen a case where a mother with drug problems and other serious issues was given full custody of children who wanted to be with their father because of her instability.

Too many couples when they break up use their children as bargaining chips and as a way to hurt each other. I have seen a number of examples of men spending a small fortune trying to get fair access to their children. Men who are battling ex-wives who are maliciously doing all they can to ruin their relationships with their children and to keep them apart.

Men often do not have the same support networks as women so when they are cut off and are beaten down by the court system it is no surprise that some of them feel driven to despair. I don’t know the story of the father who set himself on fire but his death is an incredibly sad symbol of all that is wrong with how divorce and separation are handled in our country, both by the parents involved and our court system.



* Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354

* Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

* Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

* Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666

* Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

* Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email [email protected]

* 0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.

* Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

* Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

* Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

* For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).

 – Stuff

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