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High profile NZ women demand more Govt action against violence

The organiser of a letter demanding action on violence against women says deaths like that of British tourist Grace Millane are avoidable, if the government and men step up.

Dozens of influential New Zealand women have signed an open letter to the government demanding action to stop violence against women, following the killing of Grace Millane.

The 50 signatories include former Prime Ministers Helen Clark and Dame Jenny Shipley, the former Governer-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, and several media personalities and non-government organisations.

The open-letter, addressed to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, calls for a cross-party plan to stop violence against women, better services for women who had been attacked, and more public awareness campaigns.

The director of ActionStation, which organised the letter, Laura O'Connell Rapira, said Ms Millane's death had spurred a surge of support for action against violence.

"The truth is violence is preventable if we work together at an individual, at a Whānau, at a community, regional and national level and if the government and the men of New Zealand make it a priority."

Laura O'Connell Rapira said she hoped the letter would help move gender-based violence higher up the government's priority list.

Read the open letter.

"It's difficult to know how to express the horror so many of us feel about what happened to Grace Millane. She was 21, on the trip of a lifetime, with her whole life ahead of her ...and then she was gone," the letter reads.

"When young women are murdered, it reminds women that our safety is an illusion. We have some of the worst statistics for sexual violence, domestic violence and violence against women in the OECD. Most of that violence is at the hands of our men.

"This is a time for national soul-searching. It is also a time for solution-based action."

The letter drew on a recent United Nations report which found a third of women would face domestic or sexual abuse in their lifetime.

The authors also asked New Zealand men to show more respect to women, by calling out other men discussing women in a degrading way, and stepping in if they see abuse happening.

"Women going on solo adventures or meeting new people for dates are not the problem here. Men who commit acts of violence against women are. But violence is preventable if we work together at an individual, whānau, community, regional and national level.

"We must remove our rose-tinted glasses. The government of New Zealand must take action; for Grace and for all of the women who have lost their lives to violence in our country."

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