Promiscuity claim gets cold shoulder

Paula Bennett
Paula Bennett
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says questions should be asked about older men "preying'' on young women, rather than about the promiscuity of women.

She was commenting on Conservative Party leader Colin Craig's statement that Kiwi women were the most promiscuous in the world and the taxpayer should not pay for their contraception.

Mr Craig made the comment on Radio NZ yesterday while discussing the $1 million initiative to provide grants for women on the benefit to get long-acting contraception.

He said he had no problem with contraception but taxpayers should not have to pay for another person's lifestyle choice.

"We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world,'' he said.

"This does nothing to help us at all. We are faced with a reality that the constant changing of partners is a decision young women are making. It's a destructive decision on a lot of levels. Health is one of those, and it is a big cost to us.''

Ms Bennett said there were men in the benefit system who had fathered numerous children, but they escaped much of the criticism. Some had up to eight children to different mothers - and even if they were employed they could not afford child support.

"We talk about teen mums a lot and yes, they are left with the babies. But you hear of older men with multiple children and they actually prey on young women as well,'' Ms Bennett said. "I'm not sure we actually identify that as the problem that it is.''

The minister said Mr Craig's comment was ridiculous and offensive, but she was constantly confronted with prejudice and "quite old-fashioned views'' in her role as welfare minister. "I despair at times. We've still got a long way to go.''

Prime Minister John Key was quick to respond to Mr Craig's comments, saying he had not seen anything to stack up the claim.

"There's no evidence to support the view that New Zealand women are more promiscuous than in the rest of the world,'' Mr Key said.

"I think he's just making it up.''

Last night, Mr Craig released the international research he based the claim on - including a survey of behaviour such as one-night stands by an academic at Bradley University in which NZ came second to Finland. Another was the 2007 Durex Global Sex Survey of 26,000 people nationwide, which found NZ women had an average of 20.4 sexual partners - well above the global average of 7.3.

Other MPs were equally dismissive.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said it was outrageous to talk about the promiscuity of New Zealand women when they probably knew nothing about other countries.

"We do try to operate on evidence and we don't lie in the bedrooms of other people.''

Mana leader Hone Harawira suggested New Zealand women should pay Mr Craig a visit "and set him straight''.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was an aunt, a mother and a cousin and hadn't found women to be more promiscuous in NZ.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said the fact Mr Key was open to a potential coalition with someone who had such a belief only showed how desperate National was.

- Claire Trevett and Audrey Young of the NZ Herald

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