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To: Minister of Justice, Paul Goldsmith

Protect Women: Make Stalking Illegal

Make Aotearoa New Zealand safer for everyone, especially women, by urgently adding stalking to the 1961 Crimes Act.

UPDATE! 20 May: 80 groups and individuals in business, politics, law, entertainment, media and academia – including representatives of women, migrants, workers and researchers – have signed an open letter urging the government to make stalking illegal. 

Why is this important?

Making stalking a crime will help to protect our basic human right to live safely and free of fear in Aotearoa NZ. We need to do this now to prevent more severe distress and physical harm from stalking, including murders committed by stalkers.

• Stalking is terrifying and common, and it can be deadly. Making stalking a crime would enable coordinated, systematic responses so victims get prompt, consistent, and effective protection which is not currently provided [1].
• Stalking is illegal overseas, but not explicitly in NZ, making it very difficult and often impossible for victims/survivors to get the protection they need.
• Prior to the election, now-Minister Paul Goldsmith criticised the previous government for dragging its feet in this area, but he now indicates criminalising stalking is not a priority.
• Police methods to determine stalking risks are inadequate and not fit-for-purpose, as identified by the Independent Police Complaints Authority in 2024, after the death of Farzana Yaqubi on 19 December 2022 [2]. Farzana's stalking complaint was still “awaiting investigation” when she was murdered by her stalker almost 8 weeks after she first contacted Auckland police.
If stalking had been explicitly illegal, police would likely have had the correct tools to keep Farzana safe immediately.

Stalking is a pattern of unwanted repetitive and persistent intrusions into a person’s life. 
• Physically following someone is only one kind of stalking. Common repeated stalking actions include: digital stalking; showing up uninvited; driving past a home or workplace; confrontation; messaging repeatedly; posting on social media; delivering gifts; using spyware to get private information; making threats; contacting people close to the victim; and sabotaging the victim’s freedom and prospects.
• To be considered stalking, these actions must be part of a pattern of repeated unwanted intrusions into someone’s life.
• Stalking is common. In the USA, 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 17 men experience stalking in their lifetimes. NZ does not yet collect stalking data but harassment and threats, which are consistent with stalking, are two of the five most common crime experiences (2021 NZ Crime and Victims Survey).
• Young women, recently separated women, and those experiencing intimate partner violence are most commonly affected by stalking. Wāhine Māori, disabled women, rainbow women and trans people, and migrant and refugee women are disproportionately impacted.
• Those targeted for stalking include politicians, journalists, and celebrities, which can dissuade women from public roles or from speaking out. This silencing of women has a strong negative impact on both gender equity and our democracy.

Stalking usually takes a heavy toll on victims’ emotional, mental, and physical well-being and is often far more dangerous than it looks from the outside. 
• It is usually designed to control the victim through intimidation which is why it is so terrifying. 
• Stalking can, and does, lead to physical violence, even death. 
• As one victim put it: “I always thought at the beginning that if I could just ride it out then he would stop. But that never happened and it got worse and worse. It was very, very scary. It was extremely isolating […]there was never a time that I could escape it, ever.”[3]

 NZ’s current laws: out-of-date
• Various stalking-related behaviours are prohibited across a patchwork of fragmented, piecemeal, and poorly understood statutes, which fail to capture stalking's underlying harmful pattern. 
• The lack of a stalking law prevents coordinated responses and prevents victims of stalking from getting prompt, consistent, and effective protection. 
• Overseas, standard practice is to criminalise stalking, including in the US, Australia, England, Wales and the European Union.
• We recognise every part of our justice system has a fundamentally racist track record: arresting, prosecuting, convicting, and incarcerating Māori at vastly higher rates than non-Māori. Over-incarceration of Māori continues to be used as a tool of on-going colonisation. We support Māori-led innovation through devolved resourcing and decision-making to address these issues, and we support sentencing that emphasises rehabilitation and keeps people safe.

As well as criminalising stalking, the government needs to resource the prevention of stalking: 
• Police training to recognise stalking and its harms, and take action to stop stalkers immediately
• Anti-stalking intervention programmes 
• Public awareness campaigns about stalking and its harms
• Training for social and community workers re prevention and victim protection
• Comprehensive data collection on stalking prevalence

Women's safety needs higher prioritisation - politicians keep stringing us along. 
• In August 2020 Justice Minister Andrew Little agreed a review of the law was needed. 
• In 2021, the next Justice Minister Kris Faafoi committed to addressing the lack of legal redress for intimate partner stalking. However, nothing was done. 
• In 2023, we worked to educate the political parties that action on stalking is urgent. Prior to the election, the National Party publicly supported the inclusion of stalking as a crime within the Crimes Act 1961.[4]
New Zealanders need the National-led Government to act now to prevent more innocent people from living in fear and being harmed or murdered.

A note from the ActionStation team: https://bit.ly/3woVhAW 

References:
[1] For more info on the policy background of this petition see: https://awc.org.nz/stalking/ 
[2] https://www.ipca.govt.nz/Site/publications-and-media/2024-media-releases/2024-apr-18-investigation-response-farzana-yaqubi-online-report-.aspx
[3] https://womensrefuge.org.nz/intimate-partner-stalking/
[4] https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/election-2023-four-political-parties-pledge-to-strengthen-legal-protections-against-stalking/FQF3HDBPRBBFRLXQGJZODDRFVM/

Partner

Updates

2024-05-22 02:27:18 +1200

10,000 signatures reached

2024-05-08 07:54:11 +1200

5,000 signatures reached

2024-05-07 15:58:50 +1200

1,000 signatures reached

2024-05-03 14:19:17 +1200

500 signatures reached

2024-05-02 15:56:42 +1200

100 signatures reached

2024-05-02 15:10:55 +1200

50 signatures reached

2024-05-02 14:54:00 +1200

25 signatures reached

2024-05-02 14:48:58 +1200

10 signatures reached