Students are condemning deplorable comments recently highlighted by Act on Campus which link the current situation of universal student association membership to rape.
On their public Facebook page, ACT on Campus quoted a Calgary Beacon opinion piece which wrote: “After all, if two men corner a woman in a dark alley and force her to have sex with them because they, the majority, have voted in favour of it, that would still be rape, not the exercise of their group right to freedom of association.”
The Tertiary Women’s Focus Group (TWFG) condemns this analogy. There are no similarities between Universal Student Membership and rape, nor will there ever be.
“These comments are deplorable. The fact that they continue to defend highlighting this analogy shows how little they understand of rape culture in New Zealand.” says Caitlin Dunham, National Women’s Rights Officer for the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations
“Act on Campus is trivialising the experiences of one in four women in New Zealand to make a tenuous point.
Currently, one in four women in tertiary education under the age of 25 are sexually assaulted, and are unable to ‘opt out’.
Currently, most tertiary students are automatically members of their Student Association, but can choose to opt out,” says Dunham.
The Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment bill currently before Parliament, sponsored by the Act Party, seeks to remove the current choices in the law by making all membership voluntary, without any regard to the impact on student services, welfare or representation.
“The irony is that the student Associations the Act Party Bill targets are the same associations who work tirelessly with students and the community to provide a number of services to those affected by rape, harassment, sexual assault and violence. These include campaigns such as ‘Thursdays in Black’ and ‘Reclaim the Night’, along with safety schemes such as ‘Campus Angels’,” says Dunham.
“We call on the Act Party leadership to condemn these comments highlighted by Act on Campus. Act on Campus need to think twice before comparing their experience as members of student associations to the traumatizing experience of sexual assault. Such thinking further tarnishes the reputation of the Act Party, and provides yet another reason why this Act Party Bill should be voted down by Parliament,” concludes Dunham.
The Tertiary Women’s Focus Group (TWFG) is an autonomous women’s advocacy and campaign group within NZUSA and serves to represent women in tertiary education. The TWFG exists to fight for barrier free education for women in Aotearoa/New Zealand and believes that education is essential and that the different needs and material realities of women must be recognised and addressed through education processes.
The post and user comments are currently available at: http://www.facebook.com/actoncampus/posts/178879098801699
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