Women’s health and human rights on the line in welfare reform
“Punishing mums who have another child while on a benefit by forcing them to be available for paid work after one year is a human rights issue and is likely to be bad for their health” says Christy Parker, Policy Analyst at Women’s Health Action.
Ms Parker was responding to stage one of the welfare reforms announced by Social Development Minister Paula Bennet this week which target single and teen mums. Women’s Health Action disputes the idea that the current structure of the Domestic Purposes Benefit provides an incentive to have additional children, an idea put forward by the Welfare Working Group and the driver for these reforms.
“This is not supported by international evidence which shows that women’s decisions regarding children are much more likely to be based on their personal and relationship circumstances than on government policy,” states Ms Parker. “What we do know however is that women who can’t, or don’t, control their fertility whilst receiving welfare support, end up subject to disproportionate levels of poverty and hardship resulting from welfare sanctions such as these. This results in poorer health and greater social and economic marginalisation for both them and their children."
“That women bear the burden of these reforms is a human rights issue. Women’s right to the freedom to decide whether or not to have children, and to control their reproductive capacity free of coercion has been affirmed in international human rights agreements which New Zealand has ratified. On this basis alone the reforms cannot be justified, let alone the likely health impacts on women and their children."
“There is plenty of research to show us that what single and teen mums need to thrive, and that is social and economic support, encouragement and security. These reforms present a retrograde step in that regard."