Rape culture protest at Parliament demands change

Hundreds of Wellingtonians marched on Parliament on Monday afternoon to speak out against rape culture and call for compulsory consent education in high schools.

The rally, organised by students from Wellington East Girls' College, was sparked by comments posted online by Wellington College boys and the suspension of four students at St Patrick's College, in Silverstream, who sexually harassed a staff member.

Organisers are demanding compulsory classes be introduced at high schools to teach students about consent and the rights of women.

Among those at the protest were representatives from Rape Crisis, the Greens, Māori Party, and students from several high schools including Wellington College. 

"We felt we couldn't not do anything and let this be brushed under the carpet. It's a much bigger issue than just the isolated incidents," Sorcha Ashworth, one of the protest organisers, told Newshub.

"It's a national issue that affects us, rape culture in high schools.

"Unfortunately it's just extremely common, you know like street harassment, or catcalls, name calls, I have old guys ask for my number and things like that."

She says a number of her friends have been sexually assaulted and it's "disgusting" how commonplace it is.

"There isn't enough emphasis on the importance of consent which is what we're trying to push to people, it's absolutely necessary,"

Hundreds of people joined in chants which included "two, four, six, eight, stop the violence stop the hate", and, "No matter what I wear, no matter where I go, yes means yes and no means no". 

Anti rape culture protest Wellington

Wellington Rape Crisis agency manager Kyla Rayner said "it's really heartening" to see the huge turnout of young people at the protest. 

"We echo the calls that the students that organised this protest today have, we want to see some consistency across all of the schools in New Zealand and the way that they're teaching ethical sex and sex in relationships, and respect and consent."

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women Paula Bennett told protesters they were brave and it was "powerful" to see them.

She said guidelines around sex education in schools were changed last year in response to calls that it was not consistent enough. 

"We see you today, we hear you, I want to commend your bravery and your voices for being heard."

Green MP Jan Logie told the crowd: "When I was at university I looked around me and realised that almost all of the women in my life had experienced sexual assault. And that blew me over. It was too hard to accept.

"I shouldn't have had to accept it and none of you should have to accept that.

"I am sorry that 20 years on, we are here, you are here, because we haven't changed that. It is time to change that reality."

Ms Logie supported the protesters' calls for consent education across New Zealand high schools, and spoke of the need for more funding for the sexual violence sector. 

Māori Party MP Marama Fox addressed the protest and said: "In my job at the moment I meet people from all walks of life, and in just the last three weeks, women who now in their mid-life are having to deal with the issues that were perpetuated upon them by men who did not care. Young men who took their innocence. It happens to our young boys and our young women.

"But today you're here to say rape culture is not acceptable, and we stand up against it. Congratulations if you're here.

"This is not the way we raise our children in this country, and we do not want it to be passed on to another generation."


Thomas Gebremichael, a Year 12 student, at St. Patricks College was at the protest to show his support for young women. 

"These females are trying to say, we matter, and I'm for that 100 percent."

"I don't like the fact that when they apply for a job or when they get a job they're going to get 20 percent less income than me.

"Rape is something that's really common and prevalent in our society and we're not actually talking about it. And now that we are I'm really happy."