Shakti is a Women’s Refuge associate member that provides culturally appropriate domestic violence intervention services to women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin and their children regardless of age, immigration status, religion and sexual orientation. The Shakti Crisisline is 0800 SHAKTI or 0800 742 584, and it’s free to phone from both landlines and cell-phones.

Domestic violence is against the law in New Zealand. This means all women living in New Zealand have the right to:

  • leave a violent relationship
  • provide a safe home environment for their children
  • say ‘no’ if they don’t want to do something
  • work and study, depending on immigration or citizenship status.

In addition to the more commonly known types of domestic violence, some Asian, African and Middle Eastern women may experience these additional forms:

Marital rape

Marital rape is a form of abuse in which one marriage partner forces the other to perform a sexual act against that person’s will. Experts believe the primary cause of rape is an aggressive desire to dominate the victim rather than an attempt to achieve sexual fulfilment.

The use of immigration as a tool of power and control

It is your right to know what visa you hold and when it expires. If you’re told by the person holding your passport that you don’t have a valid visa or work permit after it has expired, and that you will be deported if you try and get help, they are using your immigration status as a tool to control you. You are not at fault, and you can contact Shakti for support.

Honour-based violence

It’s against New Zealand law for any member of your family to hurt you or threaten to hurt or kill you, even if they justify this by saying that you have acted in a ‘shameful’ manner – and even if you think you have done something wrong.

Forced and underage marriage

It’s not okay for your parents to force you to get married, whatever your age: it’s your right to stay at school or at work, and to choose your spouse or life partner. According to New Zealand law, both parties in a marriage or civil union must be consenting.

Most girls or women think that the notion of ‘force’ involves physical violence. This is true in some cases – and if you’ve been kidnapped, held against your will, or locked in your room or your home, the law is being broken. You have the right to call the police and Shakti for help.

But force often includes a significant amount of emotional coercion. You have experienced force if you:

  • have been told repeatedly that the family honour will be destroyed if you refuse the marriage
  • have been told by a family member that they are ill and/or dying and their last wish is for you to agree to the marriage
  • have been told or been made to feel that you are worthless if you have been raped and that marriage is your only choice
  • have been threatened with, or have been abused sexually, as a result of refusing the marriage.

According to New Zealand law, it is illegal to get married below the age of 16 years, even if your parents consent to the marriage and/or want you to get married.

It is legal to get married between the ages of 16 and 18 years if you have parental consent. However, it is a legal requirement that you are aware of the marriage and that you also consent to it. If you do not and you fear for your safety, call us and we will help you.

Dowry abuse

Dowry abuse occurs when the husband or his family continues to harass the wife or her family – sometimes with threats of physical violence – for more money, or other gains after the marriage. Shakti has worked with women who have been abused and/or abandoned because of their family’s inability to meet these demands.

If you’ve been abandoned, made to work in slave-like conditions, or abused in another manner as a result of insufficient dowry payments or increased dowry demands, you have experienced a form of domestic violence.

Community pressure

No major world religion condones domestic violence. Anyone who tells you that leaving a violent relationship or forced marriage is wrong according to your religion is using religion as a tool to control your decisions – and this is also a form of abuse.

How Shakti can help you

Shakti Community Council Inc. and its member organisations have a national Crisisline you can call for help and advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phone 0800 SHAKTI or 0800 742 584 free from landlines and cellphones. In an emergency phone the police on 111.

Shakti has four refuges in New Zealand: two in Auckland, one in Tauranga and one in Christchurch and has drop-in centres in Wellington and Dunedin.

We offer outreach services and drop-in support for women who don’t require refuge accommodation. Phone and make a time to meet an advocate from Shakti. She will talk to you about your options, and ask you what you would like to do, and together you can make a plan. She will never tell you what to do or force you to take a step that you don’t feel is right for you.

All information you provide is confidential. Even if our advocate is from the same ethnic community as you, you can be sure that she will not disclose your details to others from your community or religious organisation.

And if you do need emergency accommodation, you can choose to go to one of Shakti’s refuges or your local Women’s Refuge. In a Shakti refuge we will try and ensure that you have your own room. We also try to ensure that you have access to food that you are familiar with; for example, Muslim women will have access to halal meat and halal cooking utensils.

Our staff and volunteers speak a number of Asian, African and Middle Eastern languages. If you’re not comfortable speaking in English, we will find someone who speaks your language and can interpret for you. All Shakti interpreters are required to sign confidentiality agreements and if the interpreter found is not a Shakti staff member or volunteer, we will check that you’re comfortable with this person before using her service.

Other services provided at Shakti centres include:

  • counselling and legal advocacy services
  • positive parenting programmes
  • educational programmes for women, such as English language classes
  • driver licensing
  • career development
  • NZQA accredited programmes for migrants and refugees (Auckland)
  • Shakti Youth Servicesawareness and training programme for community advocates/volunteers.

Shakti member organisations

  • Shakti Asian Women’s Centre Inc – Auckland (Onehunga and North Shore)
  • Shakti Asian Women’s Safehouse Inc. (two refuges) – Auckland
  • Shakti Legal Advocacy & Family Social Services Inc. – Auckland (includes Shakti Youth Unit and Legal Unit)
  • Shakti Education Training & Advisory Company (SETAC), an NZQA registered training and education provider – Auckland
  • Shakti Ethnic Women’s Support Group Central Region Inc.
  • Shakti Ethnic Women’s Support Group Christchurch Inc.

Phone 0800 SHAKTI or 0800 742 584 to make contact with these organisations. We are also in the process of establishing a centre in Wellington.

Migrant and refugee women in New Zealand can also refer to the government’s Office of Ethnic Affairs for information and support, including a free telephone interpreting service for 41 languages.