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Saturday 08 April 2017

What "Other" Issues Concern Us?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 22nd March 2017

What "other"issues should concern LGBT inhabitants of New Zealand?

Once again, I must thank No Pride in Prisons for stimulating this area of thought. After completing an earlier piece on what LGBT issues should concern us during the forthcoming election, I discussed this matter with several friends and acquaintances. Incidentally, the order in which theseissuesare discussed should imply nothing about the degree of priority allocated to each of them. There may well be divergences of opinion based on one's own social position, such as NPIP's solidarity with Maori and Pasifika whakawahine, fa'afafine, faikaleite and other prisoners and the priority they accord to preventing the abuse and maltreatment of transgender prisoners in the criminal justice system (although as someone motivated by strong anti-racist ethical principles, I share those priorities).

1.Health: The issue of HIV/AIDS comes up for gay men in this context, given concerns over Truvada/PrEP and HIV/AIDS related social and epidemiological research and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation's funding crisis, and funding for HIV ameliorative drugs from Pharmac otherwise. However, there are other issues that affect other members of our communities. Overall, one is the emphasis on surgical procedures and secondary health care under the Key and English administration. This is all very well and I imagine that I would feel differently if I had a relative who had just had a hip replacement expedited, for example. However, this does not do justice to primary and preventative health care, which is actually more cost-effective, as it provides valuable health promotion knowledge, attitudes and incentives toward changed behaviours in many other contexts as well. Theotheris chronic undercapacity and service quality problems within the mental health sector, which is a long-standing area of acute need. For women, one area of concern might be lung cancer, which is increasing in apparent incidence relative to breast cancer and cervical cancer in the wake of more thorough screening measures and early intervention.

2.Education: Certainly, anti-bullying concerns and transgender child health, safety and privacy are pivotal LGBT concerns in New Zealand. When it comes to the question of broader education concerns, certainly others emerge. One of the chief current areas of government policy that is questionable seems to be that of charter schools. Now, my primary concern with charter schools is not that iwi and Maori urban training providers are being funded to provide these services, although more transparency and accountability about their outcomes might be welcome. Perhaps, in the event of change of government, successful charter schools could be folded into the state school system as alternative training providers and their staff could receive expedited teacher training. As one might guess, my concern is centred on the premise that some charter schools are run by conservative Christian sects and that children within them are being indoctrinated by fundamentalist anti-LGBT and other religious social conservative ideologies, at the cost of practical educational priorities. While these concerns are certainly centred on the plight of LGBT students inadvertently caught within religious charter school environments, there are other related areas. Discrimination against intellectually, developmentally and behaviourally disabled students is rife within the US charter school system, which is surely against the premises of the Human Rights Act 1993.

3.Welfare: Recent questions about welfare provision deferentially affect our communities. When it comes to employment eligibility and benefit access,issues of discriminatory disability service provision hampered by overly restrictive neo-liberal government legislation have arisen in the United Kingdom, along with angry responses from the disability rights movement against service and eligibility cuts. As yet, there is little direct evidence that HIV+ people are being affected by this inflexible and destructive legislation, nor has this been raised in the context of women and cancer or respiratory disease. Australian and New Zealand disability rights groups are anxious about the possibility of this approach to disability service provision being imported to centre-right governments in both countries from the British May administration. Solidarity with our sister social movement demands that we work alongside them to prevent this contingency, as well as more intimate relationships- what about those of us who are carers, parents and family/whānau members of people with disabilities? They must not be left to face any such crackdown alone.

4.Foreign Affairs: This involves several overarching questions. One is that anti-LGBT states should not be given foreign aid assistance without any guarantees of human rights or civil liberties improvement, unless there are issues of urgent humanitarian need at stake. Otherwise, there should be thorough foreign affairs aid monitoring and auditing to insure that there is minimal recipient government corruption in its administration and distribution to recipients within the general community. In the United Kingdom Cameron administration Secretary of State William Hague called a halt to foreign aid provision to Uganda after an audit disclosed high levels of bureaucratic and government corruption within the Museveni regime over government to government financial and material aid. LGBT and other refugee issue salso occur in this setting- New Zealand urgently needs to expand its intake and scale of service provision when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers. Compared to the United Kingdom, these issues rarely arise in our own national context, apart from celebrated cases such as Ahmed Zaoui during the Clark administration.

5.Climate Change: On this front, the current government is often accused of under-estimating the pace, scale and severity of global climate change, at a time when the worst outcomes can still be mitigated. Already, however, there is fear that current neglect may mean that we will experience a gradual increase of average global temperature by two degrees. This will mean more severe adverse environmental incidents, such as storm severity, flooding, torrential rain and droughts, as well as sea level rise and submergence of low-lying coastal areas. Some Pacific Islands will cease to exist altogether, and major humanitarian crises will undoubtedly arise in low-lying areas like Bangladesh in Southwest Asia. One contingent problem may be intensified racist sentiment against identifiable ethnic groups of climate change refugees, given that existing parties like New Zealand First, One Nation, the United Kingdom Independence Party and French National Front are all hostile to LGBT rights.

6.Criminal Justice: As I opened this article with acknowledgement of the role of No Pride in Prisons in this context, it seems only fitting that I close it with focusing on issues raised by the criminal justice system. Although NPIP's focus is on whakawahine, fa'afafine and faikaleite prisoners within the criminal justice system, they also endorse a broader criminal justice critique which includes greater emphasis on tikanga Māori, community based criminal justice solutions, unionisation of incarcerated workers, greater financial compensation and employment rights for incarcerated workers, prisoner voting right restoration, abolish private prisons like those run by Serco, greater Correctional and Police staff accountability for misconduct and abuse of prisoners that includes the ultimate sanction of dismissal in grave cases, greater access to operational data and statistical indices related to prison performance and many other objectives. This is taken from No Pride in Prisons excellent "Abolitionist Demands" section and I strongly recommend perusal of their booklet on this matter as on so many others centred on criminal justice accountability and transparency.

Do readers have any suggestions about what LGBT organisations and individuals might choose as election priorities this year?

Craig Young - 22nd March 2017

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