Opinion: Minister for Women? Yeah, right

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Monday 12 Sep 2016 3:13 p.m.

Minister for Women Louise Upston (Supplied)Minister for Women Louise Upston (Supplied)

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Two words that, with a few exceptions, should never be uttered by a minister of the Crown.

Yet it’s this resounding silence we have heard from Minister for Women Louise Upston on the Chiefs saga. Not one word has passed her lips on the issue.

The Prime Minister defended her silence saying he’d already said enough as the voice for the Government on the issue.

And after that she sent a tweet.

Yes, instead of reassuring over half of the population by saying she, the minister for all women, is standing up for women, she sent a tweet to her three-and-a-half-thousand followers on a social media platform basically none of the country uses.

A tweet two days after the shameful investigation was concluded, which did not mention the Chiefs, nor New Zealand Rugby, nor the investigation itself.

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Sorry Minister, that’s simply too little too late.

Here’s what you could have said:

1. It’s deplorable behaviour

As the Minister for Women, Louise Upston is the voice for women. She should be championing the rights of women in every aspect. A strong message condemning the actions of these players should have been the first thing that she said. Not “disappointing”, not “unfortunate”, simply say it as it is. It’s deplorable.

2. Knock on my door

Here’s the thing. Louise Upston has an entire ministry dedicated to women. It defines itself as “the Government’s principal advisor on achieving better results for women, and wider New Zealand”.

One of its four “priority areas” is “keeping women free from violence”.

The minister has control of this ministry and should have said to the Chiefs and NZR: “I have a team of experts who can help you”. Or even better, she could walk up Molesworth Street into New Zealand Rugby House, knock on their door armed with a team of experts and dish up some advice.

3. The investigation was not good enough

Employing your own legal counsel to investigate your own behaviour is a joke. There should have been an independent body to investigate. The fact that the Chiefs and NZR decided to deal with it this way shows how much of a joke they thought it was.

Who should have been the first person to point out that the investigation had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese? The Minister for Women.

The Minister should have been up in arms at the state of the investigation and that the victim wasn’t even interviewed. Here’s a thought: she could have asked her ministry who’d be best placed to investigate.

4. Strippers are people

The rhetoric from faceless internet trolls and anonymous talkback callers to RadioLIVE show why there’s a need for a Minister for Women. The comments about Scarlette’s ordeal ranged from “she should have been more careful” to “she’s a stripper, what did she expect?” But it wasn’t even just faceless trolls. It came from elected councillors in the Chiefs’ province.

Margaret Murray-Benge, a Western Bay of Plenty District Councillor said she feels sorry for the players because what else were they to do when faced with booze and a stripper? Here’s what she said on Facebook:

“I feel quite strongly — why on earth would a stripper go to a rugby doo. I feel very sorry for the players — too much drinking and a naked body. Why on earth did the stripper accept the invitation in the first place. Move on and do not extend the invitation next year. The players deserve protection too [sic]”

What kind of victim blaming bull***t is this?

Here’s what the players could have done: shown some respect for boundaries and, you know, not sexually abuse her.

A woman’s job shouldn’t define her worth. Louise Upston should have said so. No woman should ever be subject to this kind of abuse, no matter her line of work.

5.Love Rugby, Respect Women.

Louise Upston had another opportunity – if not lead the chorus, then at least join it.

The Human Rights Commission penned an open letter to NZR signed by 25 high-profile women.

They included Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue, United Nations Women President Barbara Williams, three Opposition Members of Parliament. So why not add Minister for Women Louise Upston to the list? The words were written for her. All she had to do was sign the dotted line.

It’s not the first time Louise Upston has stayed silent on an issue like this. She also stood by the Prime Minister during the ponytail scandal. She’s also previously said she doesn’t consider herself a feminist.

And by adding to that record with this shameful stance, she’s basically showing the nation that her role of Minister for Women means nothing to her.

If the Minister for Women doesn’t feel comfortable standing up for women, she should step aside and make room for someone who’ll scream and shout their support for women from a mountaintop because that’s what we need.

Minister, step up, or step aside.