Government asked to ratify convention on violence against women

Initiative by women’s groups is part of Europe-wide drive to highlight need to implement 2011 document

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald will launch the new booklet on violence against women. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald will launch the new booklet on violence against women. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 08:28

Ireland must show its commitment to eradicating all forms of male violence against women by ratifying a 2011 convention aimed at preventing such violence internationally, women’s groups have said.

The Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women, chaired by National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) called for Ireland to sign, ratify and implement the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The call coincides with the publication today by the observatory of the booklet ‘Violence Against Women: An Issue of Gender – Highlighting the Role of Gender in Analysis and Response.

It will be launched by Minister for Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald today , during 16 days of action as part of a Europe-wide strategy to get countries to implement the agreement.

Director of Women’s Aid, Margaret Martin, said one in five women in Ireland would experience violence at some point in their lives.

“In the context of the prolonged recession, there has been a worrying decrease in the options and services available to victims of all forms violence against women,” she said.

Director of the NWCI, Orla O’Connor, said violence against women “comes at a high cost to society and responses need to be located within a gender equality framework”.

“Our publication highlights how service providers must be aware of how gender creates different roles for women and men in society.

“It is by taking account of unequal power relations between women and men that service providers will be able to address different vulnerabilities experienced by different groups of women and men.”

She said there could be no real equality between women and men if women experienced gender-based violence on a large-scale and “state agencies and institutions turn a blind eye”.

“The Council of Europe Convention is a benchmark at international level, and Ireland must show its commitment to eradicating all forms of male violence against women by signing, ratifying and implementing the convention as a matter of urgency.”

The so-called Istanbul Convention recognises that violence against women “is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men, which have led to domination over, and discrimination against, women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women”.

It also recognises “the structural nature of violence against women as gender-based violence, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men”.

It also recognises that women and girls are exposed to a higher risk of gender-based violence than men, that domestic violence “affects women disproportionately, and that men may also be victims of domestic violence”.

The convention has not yet entered into force as this requires at least 10 Council of Europe member states to ratify it.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter told the Dáil in April that Ireland supported “in principle” the aims and terms of the convention and that an office within his department had actively contributed to the drafting process.

He said the detailed provisions and the legislative and administrative arrangements that would be necessary to allow signature and ratification were being examined in conjunction with the Government commitment to consolidate and reform domestic violence legislation.

He had been advised, however, that Article 52 on emergency barring orders “presents a particular difficulty in relation to property rights under the Irish Constitution”.

“I propose to consult again with the Attorney General’s Office in relation to the legal difficulty relating to Article 52 and other issues. The matter will then be submitted for decision of the Government on the issue of signature of the Convention.”

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