13 Mar 2017

Hundreds join protest against rape culture in NZ

7:20 pm on 13 March 2017

Hundreds of people have gathered outside Parliament to protest against rape culture and call for better sex and consent education in secondary schools.

The rally was organised after two Wellington College boys posted messages on Facebook about having sex with drunk and unconscious girls.

Separately, four Year 9 students from St Patrick's College at Silverstream in the Hutt Valley were suspended after they posted inappropriate images of female teachers on Instagram.

Poor weather in the capital did not keep people at bay, with men and women of all ages - including at least 100 secondary school students - turning out.

On the lawn outside Parliament, Wellington High School student Norma McLean told the crowd she did not want to live in fear any longer.

"Today we send an important message to New Zealand that we will not put up with rape culture any longer... the buck stops here. I want my future to be equal to any man's."

Another speaker said: "It is important we teach the rights a woman has over her own body."

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women Paula Bennett said the government had heard the calls to make sure consent was included in the curriculum for sex education, which was compulsory in Year 10.

"I think it is incredibly powerful that such a big group has turned out. I want to praise [those] that are speaking out and calling out behaviour that is not acceptable at any level," she said.

One of the protesters, Jennie Stone, said in this day and age, women feeling unsafe because of their gender was simply unacceptable.

"I grew up through the women's movement and I would have expected that my granddaughters would be able to feel safe by now and it doesn't seem as though they can.

"I would have hoped, also, that my grandsons would have learnt a lot and I'm hoping that they have. I think they have," she said.

Organiser: 'This isn't an issue that should be normalised at all'

Protest organiser Mia Faiumu, Wellington East Girls College

Mia Faiumu, of Wellington East Girls' College, was among the group that organised the protest. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Organisers were forced to move the location of the protest, which was originally to be held outside Wellington College, when they were threatened with violence.

A member of the group, Mia Faiumu, told RNZ's Michael Cropp she hoped people would take away the message that joking about rape was not okay.

"It's very harmful to people, to victims, and we hope that people take away that this isn't an issue that should be normalised at all.

"We are calling for compulsory education within our schools on consent and we hope that is something that leads to wider discussion."

Ms Faiumu said the protesters had received support from a number of MPs, and she hoped Ms Bennett's promise their voices were being heard and changes were being made was true.

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