Girls, Not Brides

Girls Not Brides - end child marriage now graphic

My submission on the Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit on this Bill.

I agree that this Bill is a good first step, however it does not go far enough and should be amended to ban all forms of child marriage and civil unions. The legal minimum age of marriage and civil union should be 18 with no exceptions. This includes no exceptions due to judicial or parental consent.

I study a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Laws.

As a young person, I think it is important that the voice of youth is taken into account during the Select Committee process at all times, but especially when issues relating to young people are being debated and discussed.

We set legal ages for many activities. When someone is 16 they can’t vote, they can’t get their full driver licence, they can’t buy alcohol or cigarettes, they can’t apply for a credit card, they can’t buy Instant Kiwi scratchies, and they can’t gamble in a casino. We set these limits because we are conscious of the development stages of children.

A non-government organisation’s name states this bluntly. These are Girls, Not Brides. Their ‘Role of Parliamentarians’ report is attached.

Sustainable Development Goals

New Zealand has agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve target 5.3 this Bill must be amended to ban all marriage for children under 18, with no exceptions.

The Sustainable Development Goals are the successor of the Millennium Development Goals and are intended to determine national and international development priorities up to 2030. There are 17 goals and 169 targets and one of them relates to child marriage.

All United Nations member states pledged their support toward achieving target 5.3, which is to end child marriage. Ending child marriage will contribute to achieving eight of the Sustainable Development Goals.

To be clear: New Zealand will not end child marriage by 2030 unless the practice is completely prohibited – this means there can be no loopholes such as obtaining judicial approval.

This Bill is the perfect opportunity to implement target 5.3 through an amendment that will prohibit child marriage entirely.

The Rights of the Child

The Committee for the Convention on the Rights of the Child recommends that the minimum age of marriage be 18 years.

Child marriage affects the rights of children, especially girls’ right to health, education, equality, and the right to live free from violence and exploitation.

Child marriage increases health risks.

For girls it encourages the start of sexual activity when they are still developing and when they might not know as much about their rights and sexual and reproductive health. Girls in a child marriage are forced to negotiate safe, consensual sex with usually much older husbands.

They are under social pressure to prove their fertility and so are more likely to experience early, unplanned and frequent pregnancies with an increased risk of pregnancy-related issues.

Girls married before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than unmarried peers and to report that their first sexual experience was forced. Child brides more likely to believe that a man is sometimes justified in beating his wife compared to women who marry later.

A rubber-stamping process

My preference is for this Bill to be strengthened so that no marriages of children under 18 occur.

However, if the judicial consent avenue is taken the process needs to be strengthened.

  • From watching the speeches at the first reading of this Bill, it seems clear that the intention of the Bill is to reduce the number of these marriages, however the Bill provides no criteria for Family Court judges considering an application from a 16-17-year-old to take into account.
  • The Bill does not empower judges to seek funded expert reports, such as psychologist or cultural reports, or to order funded counselling. A lawyer for child should be appointed and reports such as cultural, medical, psychiatric, and psychological reports should be able to be requested by a Family Court judge. Family Court Act 1980 section 16D would need to be amended too.
  • There is no need for the Bill to include provisions around public/media presence and other matters that are covered by other Family Court legislation. Sufficient controls on the media and public are contained in the Family Court Act – a person under the age of 18 or a vulnerable person cannot be identified in a report and the public are not able to attend hearings without consent of the Family Court judge.
  • The Committee should consider amending Family Court Act 1980 section 12A rather than including an evidence subsection in the Marriage Act.
  • This Bill should be compared to the law in Australia. If the judicial approval approach is taken the legislation should be reworked to be much more similar to sections 11 to 21 Marriage Act 1961 (Australia). For example: that authorisation should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, parental authorisation should be required as well, expiry of consent etc. The Australian law makes it clear that the intention is to reduce child marriages: “the circumstances of the case [shall be] so exceptional and unusual as to justify the making of the order”. However, please note that even this does not meet the Sustainable Development Goal requirements.

UNICEF recommendations

The Committee should consider UNICEF’s recommendations (PDF), such as:

  • child marriages should be voidable by either party with applications being able to be made within two years from the date the person reaches the age of majority (with considerations made regarding immigration status, division of property, and care of children);
  • in relation to penalties; and
  • child marriages taken place to date should be analysed.

Civil unions

The Civil Union Act 2004 should also be amended to make the minimum age for civil unions 18.

Image credit: Girls Not Brides

How to get residents to avoid submitting on proposed zoning changes Christchuch City Council style

The Christchurch City Council is reviewing its district plan, and we live in/near an area that might be subject to rezoning. The Christchurch City Council, like they’re supposed to, is consulting with residents. They’ve sent out information about the proposed zoning changes to ratepayers who might be affected. All good so far.

Except it seems a bit more like an exercise in looking like they’ve consulted with the public. Let me explain.

1) Send 12 jargon-filled A4 pages which say a lot without saying much

I’d argue that a lot of people in Christchurch don’t want to voluntarily deal with more bureaucracy than they need to (think EQC and their insurance company). Because of that a balance needs to occur between sending sufficient information and that information being clear and concise (to avoid as many people as possible putting your mail in the ‘I don’t really care or have time for this’ pile). I’d tentatively argue that including the Draft Residential Chapter (pdf), Draft Commercial Chapter (pdf), and District Plan Review (pdf) information sheets in these mail outs resulted in information overload for many people who would have been better served by simply being sent the smaller (i.e. double-sided A4 sheet), easier to read and more relevant What’s Happening In Your Area sheet. When the actual draft chapters are hundred of pages clear and concise summary information sheets do need to be available, whether they’re mailed out or not.

Some of the information included seems like it’s been copy and pasted from internal material with a very different target audience. Three sentences into the main body of the information booklet Draft Residential Chapter the words “density” and “greenfield” are introduced, both without being defined. Other gems include “housing intensification”, “medium density housing” (defined on the very last page of the booklet), and “city-wide intensification mechanisms”. The “city-wide intensification mechanisms” enable “quick gains”. To the Council’s credit examples are given for what “quick gains” are. “Civic park”, “heritage park”, and “green corridor” are less egregious examples from another information sheet.

The Christchurch City Council weights room
The Christchurch City Council weights room

2) Schedule all of your public meetings for 5:30pm on a weekday

Include so little but so much information in step one that for anyone to properly understand it in order to make an informed submission they’d have to read a lot more information or attend a consultation meeting (or both). Schedule all but one of your public consultation meetings (pdf) for 5:30pm-7:30pm on weekdays. Ignore the fact that residents might still be struggling to navigate the road works on their way home from work at this time, or might be having dinner, or might be putting young children to bed. Get bonus points for sending letters out that are advertising some of these meetings eight days before those meetings are scheduled.

3) Make it hard to find things on your website

What’s your number? To have a look at the district plan review zone map you need to guess which section of a tiny map your house is in. It took me a few tries to find our house, but perhaps that’s my poor sense of direction. Or maybe the City Council could, you know, label areas with names, or let you search by street.

Tiny map? Check.
Tiny map? Check.

4) If huge, potentially controversial changes are being proposed, ensure the diagrams “explaining” them are really confusing

People like things being explained with pictures and diagrams. They might even skip reading altogether and just look at the diagrams. That makes the diagrams that are used pretty important.

In the area of Halswell (pdf) the City Council wants to introduce a commercial centre, quite possibly one of the most controversial things you can do in a suburban area.

“A draft option is to develop a commercial centre on Halswell Road. The area highlighted on the map indicates the area within which the commercial centre could be located. … It is anticipated that this centre would occupy up to 15 hectares of land when it is fully developed.”

15 hectares is about 15 rugby fields.

Let’s compare the map that’s on the back of Halswell’s What’s Happening In Your Area sheet with some other area maps: Barrington, Bishopdale, and Riccarton.

Christchurch City Council 2014 District Plan Review Barrington Map
Barrington. Landmarks are named. The commercial centre is named ‘commercial centre’. All is well.
Christchurch City Council 2014 District Plan Review Bishopdale Map
Bishopdale. Where are we? I can orientate myself because things with names are named. The commercial centre is keyed as a ‘commercial centre’. Awesome.
Christchurch City Council 2014 District Plan Review Riccarton Map
Riccarton. Where am I? Oh, I’m by Westfield Riccarton, which is named on the map. And it’s pink because it’s a commercial centre and that’s the colour for commercial centres. Cool.
Christchurch City Council 2014 District Plan Review Sparks Road Halswell Map
Sparks Road/Halswell

Halswell. Let’s play a game called ‘find my house’. Does that tiny road say Halswell Road along it? Isn’t there a subdivision in that blank gap in the top-left corner now? Why are proposed roads squiggly arrow lines? What is a blue and a green network? By ‘proposed key activity centre’ do they mean ‘commercial centre’? (Yes. Yes they do.) Who really knows? It sure looks like the City Council doesn’t want anyone to work out what’s going on.

It’s also interesting to note that Halswell’s public meeting was on February 27, but there’s no news coverage of it or the proposed changes in general. What’s confusing to the public is confusing to the media too.

Image credits: Health Gauge, Christchurch City Council

TEDxChristchurch: Curiouser and Curiouser

Hi. I was at TEDxChristchurch today. If you couldn’t make it, The Press was live streaming the day on their website, and videos will be up on TEDxChristchurch’s website soon. Coming to TEDx each year is like watching a child grow up because the quality of the event gets better every year – like design of the slides introducing speakers, audience participation methods, and the name tag/programme.

TEDx Christchurch 2013 lanyards USB music

Here’s why you need to watch the videos of the talks when they go online… (And also because I’ve missed bits, I’ve misinterpreted and I’ve probably misquoted a little.)

Continue Reading

Shut Up & Sing

Dixie Chicks - Shut Up And Sing

I re-watched this last night. Kind of relevant right now.

This Chicks flick by Barbara Kopple (Academy Award winner for Harlan County, U.S.A.) and Cecilia Peck is powerful testament to the inconvenient truth that free speech can come at a very high cost. The Dixie Chicks, Texas-based and one of country music’s most successful acts, found out just how costly it was in the weeks following a March 10, 2003, concert in London. Indulging in some between-song patter, singer Natalie Maines expressed shame that “the president of the United States is from Texas.”

In politics, as in comedy, timing is everything; and at the time, President George W. Bush’s popularity among the Chicks’ traditional country fans was sky-high, and the invasion of Iraq was imminent. Reaction was fast and furious. Country radio stations boycotted the Dixie Chicks’ music. Conservative talk show hosts lambasted them.

Country superstar Toby Keith got into the act by denigrating Maines in his concerts. People destroyed Dixie Chicks CDs in public protests that echoed the furor sparked by John Lennon’s 1966 “We’re more popular than Jesus now” comment. The trio’s tour had to be scaled back and rerouted to include friendlier climes (Canada). (via)

THAT’S A RECORDING DEVICE!

Spilt tea

Someone has finally released the teapot tapes, the recording of John Key and John Banks talking at a Newmarket café, inadvertently recorded by cameraman Bradley Ambrose. This should have happened before the election.

Stuff are probably referring to the partial phone number John Key gives out when they say the authenticity of the tape is confirmed by information in the tape.

Here’s Steven Price on why it’s okay to link to.

Apparently police want to talk to six people who were in the café during the talk, because, you know, they probably recorded the conversation as well! (Or they can provide better details than the camera footage the police have?)

Mirrors: YouTube, SoundCloud and here.

Highlights:
(first four based on XboomcrashbangX’s comment on YouTube)

2:40 National Party are working with someone they would rather not. They are careful not to mention who.

4:08 A lot of Winston Peters’ constituents/supporters will have died.

6:10 John Key purposely doesn’t text John Banks so that it appears they are not working too closely, so they can say that they haven’t been in contact.

6:52 Don Brash is a strange fellow.

7:22 Is that yours? That’s a recording device!

7:40 What’s that? Someone’s recording device. Let’s take it with us.

10:30 It’s right here and it’s still going. [something about turning it on/off.] Take the batteries out.

Image credit: Lee Jordan

Financial Advice

Money

Here is a New Zealand Herald article that contains some shitty and some good advice about money.

Thumbs down

Buying over renting

Buy property young, preferably in your 20s. Move heaven and earth to get the deposit. Rent is wasted money.

Buying a house is not for everyone. Sometimes it doesn’t make financial sense for a particular person. Insurance, rates, money spent on repairs (~$5k~ a year) etc. sometimes make renting a better choice. Run the numbers.

Avoid fines

It’s moronic to incur fines. Like the maniac driver in a big red American-style pickup truck who overtook me on State Highway 2 on December 17, just to be pulled over and fined.

Yes, you shouldn’t speed etc. etc., but this doesn’t contain any useful advice if you do get a fine. Actual advice would be to set up an automatic payment account to a ‘Stupid mistakes’ savings account so you have money to pay inevitable fines.

NEVER SPEND MONEY EVAAAA

Every dollar is precious. Think before you spend it.

I regret frittering money on coffees and unnecessary eating out. It would be better to direct that money towards savings.

Needs and wants are often confused. This is perhaps the biggest financial mistake that people make.

If you enjoy a coffee a day, buy a coffee a day. If you enjoy eating out, eat out. There’s no point earning money if you don’t spend it on stuff you love. Cut back on the stuff you don’t care about, optimize existing spending (subscriptions and phone/internet/TV/power etc. plans) and/or earn more money.

Have a [email protected]@111

Track your spending. You can’t budget if you don’t know what you’re spending.

Perhaps the most popular piece of financial advice ever given out. How many people who write this actually do in it in practice, I’m not sure. Tracking your spending by typing into a spreadsheet or basically anything with mainly manual entry is doomed to fail. Xero with BNZ and ASB by itself both offer spending tracking services within online banking. Or, Xero allows the import of other bank’s transactions. Do mainly electronic transactions (because they can automatically coded into categories) and use these.

Credit cards

Credit cards make you look rich. Anyone can live well for a few years, but the debt catches up.

Credit cards with benefits that are automatically paid off each month are excellent.

Thumbs up

Judging people

People are too quick to judge others’ financial decisions, me included.

1) No one wants unsolicited advice. 2) You have your own problems to worry about.

Pay bills

Pay your taxes on time. The IRD has a big stick.

Pay all bills on time. Automate them. The IRD and other companies are always up for negotiation around deadlines.

Experiences

Spending money on experiences is good spending. I am eternally grateful that I sold all but one of my shares at age 22 (by coincidence in August 1987) and went backpacking through Latin America. It’s good spending if the experience enriches life.

Yes. Also, give experiences as presents instead of physical things.

Save for things. Automatically.

Save before you buy. A bit of a radical concept in 2011, but it can change people’s financial future.

Enter into interest-free deals cautiously

Interest-free hire purchase deals are for suckers. You still pay ad establishment fee and the majority of people fail to clear the debt on time and pay interest anyway.

These places invariably have great clauses such as charging you if you pay anything over the set monthly amount. Once you’ve finished paying the item off you get mailed offers from the company for ever and ever.

Avoid interest

Interest payments on personal loans, credit cards and HP are “idiot tax”. Why throw money away unnecessarily?

Work out how much something will really cost when interest is added before jumping into these. There’s calculators online that will help.

KiwiSaver

KiwiSaver is good.

Get in it.

Advice

Take your advice from people who have been through several cycles. Johnny-come-latelies going through their first financial cycle underestimate the risks.

Ask older people what they would have liked to have known at your age. What would they save for if they could turn back the clock?

Read a book

You can learn more about money. The easiest and cheapest way to improve your knowledge is to get a book out of the library.

Image credit: 401k/401kcalculator.org

John Key, John Banks, the Black Bag, and the Tea Tapes

Update: Teapot tapes have been released, here’s the recording.

There’s a little black box bag, yeah,
somewhere in the ocean on the table,
holding all the truth about us.
It’s a little black box bag,
a record of emotion,
everything that ever was.

You may deny it, deny it,
but when I find it, find it,
I’m gonna play it aloud to the world.

–Stan Walker

Two Johns and a black bag

 Oopsie

Invite media to a bit of political theater starring you and Other John, public figures, in a public Newmarket café.

Kick media out of said event. But leave some media close enough they could have “leaned over and touched the prime minister on the shoulder”.

Forget what is normally on a table in a café. Ignore the large black thing that could contain anything.

Have a wee chat. Maybe about Don Brash and how he might be rolled after the election.

Find out the black bag actually contained a radio microphone and the conversation was recorded. Oh no.

How to turn a little oopsie into a big oopsie

Call contents of recording “bland”.

Don’t give permission for the “bland” recording to be released.

Call the police on cameraman Bradley Ambrose, who allegedly accidentally recorded the conversation (which generally wouldn’t be illegal). Even though you’ve said before, regarding privacy, that “anyone who is innocent has nothing to fear”. Police get search warrants to search multiple media outlets.

Storm out of press conference after media ask questions about recording.

Compare what happened to the systemic hacking of murder and suicide victims’ phones in order to sell newspapers, ie. The News of the World.

Set the recording free

Chief High Court judge Justice Helen Winkelmann declined to make a judgement on whether the recording was public or private because it would be a “mini-trial” which would interfere with an ongoing police investigation.

So no tea tapes before election day on Saturday, unless some devious media outlet releases the recording even though they could face legal action(oh [email protected]@).