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United Nations slams treatment of women in NZ Family Court system as 'shocking'

The United Nations describes the treatment of women in the New Zealand Family Court system as "shocking" and may send a special investigator here to find out what's going on.

New Zealand's Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Jackie Blue, is taking to the world stage to tackle family violence.

Ms Blue has just returned from appearing before a UN committee and told TVNZ1's Q+A they were shocked at the experiences of Kiwi women in the Family Court.

"I supported the call for a special rapporteur on violence against woman to come to New Zealand," she said.

Watchdog, The Backbone Collective, has collated hundreds of stories from women in the system.

Backbone co-founder Deborah Mckenzie says many women are being verbally abused.

"The stories we were hearing were like reading a Dickens novel. These woman were being verbally abused by judges, lawyers and psychologists. Alarmingly, most of the women said their experiences of violence and abuse weren't being believed," Ms Mckenzie said.

Jackie Blue says there are stories of feeling they've been re-victimised and punished, and of judiciary decisions being very inconsistent.

She says a cross-party approach is needed to tackle New Zealand's shocking domestic violence rate and treatment of women.  

National made reforms to the Family Court in 2014 and the current Justice Minister, Andrew Little, has also ordered a review.

Mr Little says there are a lot of voices saying things just aren't working.

"We haven't got any specific proposals. I think what's important is we get people who can have a good look at it," he said.

Deborah Mckenzie says a review isn't enough - she wants a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

"The extent of the abuse that's being meted out to women through the Family Court has been going on for so long that there needs to be a full investigation and accountability."

A decision will be made early this week on whether the UN will send a special investigator.

Mr Little says if they come here they will be supported.

"They have a job to do to report to the international human rights bodies."

Either way, the Government's review will go ahead - with the results expected next year.

The UN may send a special investigator to New Zealand to find out what's going on. Source: 1 NEWS


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