Sexual and reproductive health provider Family Planning says it's "appalled, but not surprised" after Labour MP Kiri Allan revealed the sexist and racist abuse she has received on social media while undergoing treatment for cervical cancer.
Taking to Twitter, the East Coast MP posted screenshots of a man’s comment on Facebook that said “Māori women will assist their cervical cancer issues by abandoning promiscuity rates”.
“Just ya average day on NZ SM [social media],” Allan wrote.
There is no evidence of differing promiscuity rates by ethnicity. Māori, however, have the lowest immunisation rate against HPV, a virus that is linked to abnormal cell activity in the cervix, which can increase someone’s risk in developing cervical cancer.
Some Māori women may also choose to put off smear tests for cultural reasons.
Another man’s Facebook comment stated: "Get over yourself Kiri. There are 71 people a day diagnosed with cancer and it sickens me to see you paraded in front of the media/by the media … the Labour Party uses other people’s pain and suffering to promote their party."
In a statement today, Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond spoke out against the comments, which she called a continuation of the "double standards around sexual behavior".
"Men’s behaviour is positively acknowledged while women are criticised, blamed and shamed. Not only is it wrong and hurtful, we worry that attitudes like this might prevent women coming forward for health care and treatment," Edmond said.
"The situation is compounded when issues of race are included. We need to be very clear that we want equity across health care —equity of access to service, equity of access to treatment, and equity of outcome.
"When survival rates for cervical cancer, for instance, are so different for Māori women compared to non-Māori, it is clear that for many, many people our health system is failing to deliver. We can and must do better."
Allan’s diagnosis has prompted a renewed push for accessible cervical screening, especially among wāhine Māori.