Media release from VUWSA
Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) is calling for the government to recognize the controversy surrounding diplomat Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail as a symptom of wider issues of rape culture in New Zealand.
VUWSA’s Welfare Vice President Rick Zwaan says “our leaders need to be addressing the roots of what leads to sexual assaults rather than debating who is to blame for MFAT’s loss of face.”
“No one should have to go through what this young woman did, yet students and Brooklyn residents live in fear every day due to the conditions in which they live and walk home” says Mr Zwaan.
VUWSA has a long history of advocating for both cultural and infrastructural changes in the Wellington community that are needed to ensure all residents are safe at all times. Over 300 students recently marched for a community without sexual violence as part of the ‘Let Me Go Home’ event held in response to multiple sexual assaults that occurred on the Boyd-Wilson field pathway, adjacent to Victoria University’s Kelburn Campus.
“What we saw at Let Me Go Home was a community coming together to show that we will not accept sexual assault as a given. Students identified that Brooklyn in particular was a priority area with a dense student population and few safe options of getting home at night.”
The current prioritisation of issues surrounding sexual assault is epitomised by the lack of initiative by the government to ensure that the diplomat’s case was appropriately dealt with instead of ambiguous, informal channels of communication leading to inappropriate use of diplomatic immunity.
“Of the utmost importance in cases like this is the survivor’s wellbeing. What occurs after charges are laid should be defined by what will ensure their safety and recovery. The structures in place should reflect the protection and support of the wronged, not the defense of those whose diplomatic power overshadows their capacity to commit such an abhorrent crime.”
VUWSA is calling for a targeted approach to end rape culture that ensures accused perpetrators such as Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail are held fully accountable.
“Attention must be given primarily to education surrounding consent and the treatment of women as well as infrastructural improvements that will help Wellington residents feel safer in their own communities.”
“While only a major cultural shift in the consideration of sexuality, consent, and women’s rights will end rape culture, improved lighting, bus services that run later, more frequently and with Fairer Fares, and panic stations will help residents get home without fear.”
“Our leaders, particularly in central and local government, need to be taking decisive action to prevent future cases, and ensure justice prevails for perpetrators, of sexual assault,” concludes Zwaan.