From Stuff: The Government needs to immediately launch an inquiry into why New Zealand has such high domestic violence and maternal mortality rates compared with other Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation (OECD) countries, the head of United Nations Women New Zealand says.

A report by UN Women was released in Wellington today and canvassed 22 developed nations about subjects including domestic violence and maternal mortality.

New Zealand was ranked either at or near the bottom of the countries in the study in both areas and UN Women New Zealand national president Rae Julian called on the Government to ”actively investigate the causes of New Zealand’s high level of maternal mortality and issues of partner violence against women”.

Initiatives needed to be implemented to address the issues highlighted by the report, she said.

The study found a third of the country’s women had reported experiencing physical violence from a partner during the period 2000 to 2010.

That puts New Zealand as the worst affected of the 14 countries which responded to the question.

In the past year, New Zealand rated 11th out of the 12 countries that reported violence against women, with only Finland rating lower.

Sexual violence from partners showed a similar trend, with New Zealand coming out worst of the 12 countries that responded to the question.

The closest ranked to New Zealand’s 14 per cent was Norway, at 9 per cent.

In the past year, 2 per cent of women reported experiencing sexual violence from a partner, ranking bottom of the list.

The report follows a Ministry of Social Development study released last month which found more than a quarter of the country’s children had witnessed family violence.

The survey was published in the latest social policy journal and interviewed almost 2100 children nationwide, the Sunday News reported.

Of those surveyed, 27 per cent had seen physical violence against an adult and most of those incidents had been in the home.

When adults children loved were involved in the violence it had more impact on the child and also affected how they coped, and their decisions about telling anyone, with most too scared to speak out, the report found.

Meanwhile, the UN report also found New Zealand as among the world’s leaders in providing skilled assistance at child delivery in 100 per cent of cases.

However, at 14 deaths per 100,000, New Zealand also we had one of the highest levels of maternal mortality within the OECD. It ranked 20th, with only the United States and Luxembourg lower.

New Zealand also fell short with paid parental leave, ranking 16th out of 22 with 14 weeks’ paid leave while countries such as Norway, Denmark and Sweden offered 46, 52 and 68.4 weeks respectively.

Studies had shown that paid maternity leave increased employee retention, and reduced infant mortality and post-partum depression, the report said.

Other findings from the study included:

  • The proportion of women in parliament ranked highly, at eighth equal with Spain, but 14th for the number of women in ministerial positions;
  • New Zealand, Ireland and Spain were the only three countries which did not allow abortion for economic or social reasons. Six countries, including New Zealand, did not allow abortion on request; and
  • the wage disparity between men and women was calculated at 19 per cent based on International Labour Organisation data (somebody tell Alasdair Thompson!)