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Election 2017: What Should Our Priorities Be?

Mon 13 Feb 2017 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Prime Minister Bill English has now officially acknowledged that the forthcoming New Zealand election will be held on September 23, 2017. What should New Zealand LGBTI priorities be? 1. HIV Medication Access: As time goes on, new HIV medication access and supplies are drying up. Moreover, New Zealand is not funding new social research about trends and discernable developments related to HIV transmission, nor is it allowing Pharmac-subsidised access to PrEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), so gay men and other HIV+ people who require access to Truvada and its associated bundled medications are missing out. Granted, New Zealand is not the only nation to be in this position- while the United Kingdom is stonewalling unsubsidised access, however, gay men are sidestepping the regulatory process through sending overseas for PrEP supplies, which carries its own risks. PrEP is available in Canada and the United States, however, and Australian clinical trials are proceeding. Which political party will therefore subsidise and authorise greater access to PrEP, as well as fund further social scientific and medical research into current New Zealand gay community social statistics and relationships and other related developments? Update: 13/02/2017:It seems that the answer to the PrEP question is 'the Labour Party.' And no less than Labour leader Andrew Little has said that Labour and the Greens will provide early HIV intervention through funding Truvada/PrEP, cleared on medical safety grounds by Medsafe, New Zealand's pharmaceutical safety regulator, in January 2017. Little also stated that he endorsed the New Zealand AIDS Foundation's goal of an HIV-Free New Zealand by 2025. He also criticised Key and English administration funding cuts to HIV prevention efforts, noting that they made little fiscal sense, given that funding early intervention would reduce levels of HIV infection downstream. 2.Transgender rights: It has been twenty four years since the last amendments to the Human Rights Act 1993, which introduced sexual orientation and HIV status into the legislation. Gender identity was omitted. Despite the fact that the United Kingdom and Australia have trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws, and Canada is fast moving in that direction with Bill C-16 (currently within the Canadian Senate), New Zealand continues to rely on Clark era Solicitor General Michael Cullen's Crown Law Office opinion, which reads gender identity into the existing ground, "sex." In the case of employment law, courageous transwoman Dakota Hemmingson took a case to the Employment Relations Authority and won, which means that the Crown Law Office opinion has the force of law when it comes to employment. However, no similar case law is available in the contexts of accomodation and service provision as yet. Even if it were, New Zealand is embarrassingly out of step with comparable British Commonwealth jurisdictions.Isn't it long past time that we followed the British, Canadian and Australian leads and directly include gender identity within the Human Rights Act? Related closely to this is the obstructed surgical pipeline that constricts domestic transgender access to reassignment surgery. New Zealand's few publically funded reassignment surgeries were performed at Auckland Hospital, but that is now on hold, given the absence of trained cosmetic gender surgeons to perform the necessary modifications to genitalia. Most are therefore performed privately and at considerable expense in Thailand. The Special High Cost Treatment Pool is supposed to fund such services but it was devised in 2004 and is probably outdated when it comes to increased demand for reassignment surgery.Which party will insure adequate training for reassignment surgery and adequate funding for access? Related to this, transgender prisoner health and safety is also a serious issue. Former New Zealand Ministers of Correction Anne Tolley and Sam Lotu-Iiga have presided over unconscionable situations where there was supposedly a 'policy change' in which transitioning transwomen prisoners were placed in gender-appropriate correctional facilities. However, this alleged 'policy change' was not communicated to the Department of Corrections itself, Corrections personnel did not receive adequate professional development in managing transgender prisoners needs, and nor did the courts, so transwomen were still sent to male prisons. At one, Wiri South Auckland Correctional Facility, a transwoman prisoner was raped.While the Department of Corrections has modified and expanded its transgender prison management guidelines, there are concerns about how thorough and consistent such policies will be from groups like transgender prisoner advocacy group No Pride in Prisons. 3.Antibullying legislation:To be honest, outgoing Education Minister Hekia Parata deserves some praise for insuring the integration of transgender youth into gender-appropriate schools with a minimum of adverse publicity, despite temper tantrums from Family First and their abysmal failure at importing the US moral panic against transgender youth school health and safety into New Zealand. However, that doesn't change the fact that LGBT youth at school receive severe bullying based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, as do other identity-based youth constituencies such as disabled students.The next government needs to give serious consideration to passing a comprehensive anti-bullying bill. 4..Infant intersex surgery ban:Given the growing volume of medical evidence that early infant 'corrective' genital surgery is psychologically and physiologically damaging to intersex people in later life,when will New Zealand follow the path of Chile and Malta and prohibit any performance of such contraindicated procedures in our own national context? Originally, there was a fourth point to be made in this context. Thankfully, however, the incumbent Minister of Justice Amy Adams has stated that the English administration will now act on the issue of historic 'homosexual offences' in New Zealand- that is to say, consensual gay adult (16+) sex before the advent of the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986, and is summarised below. Historic homosexual offences:There were continual mixed signals from the current Justice Minister Amy Adams over this issue, at a time when the United Kingdom, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Germany and Canada all provided legislative reforms and procedures for individuals to pardon past instances of consensual adult gay sex from the era before decriminalisation occurred in each jurisdiction and delete them from judicial records. Adams stated that there are four hundred such cases in New Zealand court records and they will now be assessed on a case by case basis until the backlog is cleared. . Obviously, no-one is requesting the deletion of offences related to child sexual abuse and same-sex rape from that era, only instances of consensual adult gay sex.This is a simple, straightforward legislative amendment which has been carried out in numerous western societies already. One can only wonder why it took Adams so long to decide to act on this issue, well after the aforementioned jurisdictions have done so (except for the United Kingdom, which recently did so in January 2017). However, on February 9, 2017, Adams announced that eligible men could apply to the Secretary of Justice for the erasure of their prior records of consensual adult gay sexual activity, resulting in the amendment of government records accordingly. The application process will be free of charge and the Secretary of Justice can do so at their discretion, without the need for court intervention. The pre-reform Crimes Act Sections 141 (indecency between males), 142 (sodomy) and 146 (keeping of a place for resort to homosexual acts) will be the sections under review. The scheme will begin in 2018 and does not involve compensation for past convictions within the ambit of the pre-reform legislation. These are the leading LGBT concerns in the New Zealand public policy and legislative context for the 2017 New Zealand election. While the Key and English administrations have dealt quite well with issues like marriage equality, inclusive adoption reform and transgender school student health and safety concerns, the above remaining issues require urgent attention. One hopes to hear from the seven political parties currently represented within New Zealand's parliament about their comprehension and willingness for legislative and professional reform in the contexts specified above. Recommended: National Party: Labour Party: Greens: United Future: New Zealand First: Maori Party: ACT New Zealand: Elections New Zealand: New Zealand AIDS Foundation: No Pride in Prisons:http://www.noprideinprisons. org Breanna Barraclough "Labour promises to fund HIV PrEP pill" Newshub: 12.02.2017:http://www. 2017/02/labour-promises-to- fund-hiv-prep-pill.html Craig Young - 13th February 2017    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 13th February 2017 - 4:45pm

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