No-one seems to have responded to the pregnant woman on a human level

Opinion: ‘There are two very vulnerable people in this nightmare who have been let down by our selective indignation’

‘Being stigmatised for being pregnant outside of marriage was a common phenomenon until recent decades in Ireland. We routinely condemn those times.’  Photograph: Getty Images

‘Being stigmatised for being pregnant outside of marriage was a common phenomenon until recent decades in Ireland. We routinely condemn those times.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Sat, Aug 23, 2014, 00:01

Our concern for migrant women seems to vary greatly. Take a migrant woman in inadequate accommodation somewhere in Ireland. She doesn’t speak English and she has few friends.

She has no idea what her future holds and she is terrified and depressed. She has made a suicide attempt, but no one has offered any human care, and so she continues on for weeks in that state.

What would the response of the Irish public be? Well, aside from some NGOs and campaigning journalists, not very much. But add a pregnancy and a reported rape into that mix, and suddenly there are marches, there are protests, and a huge amount of editorialising about how badly we treat women in this country, particularly migrant women.

Let’s look specifically at migrant women who are asylum seekers. What sympathy is extended to asylum seekers in near despair because our cumbersome and unjust asylum-seeking system is forcing them to live in poverty in overcrowded accommodation?

In May, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) reported that the direct provision system for asylum seekers leaves many people utterly vulnerable to sexual abuse. People from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds are forced to live with little personal space or privacy and many of them have reason to fear making complaints to authority figures.

The RCNI also reported that living on €19.10 a week leaves women very vulnerable to pimps seeking women to work as prostitutes.

In 2012, seven incidents of sexualised behaviour among children in direct provision were reported. Children and women have reported being afraid to use mixed-gender toilets at night, and resorting to using buckets in their rooms instead.

But none of that roused us from our apathy.

The young migrant woman at the centre of the controversy this week because she felt depressed and suicidal, and would prefer to have been dead rather than pregnant, so far appears to have been failed both by NGOs and State bodies.

No one seems to have responded to her on a human level. No one seems to have assured her she was safe, that people would care for her, that she could come through this without resort to violence against herself or her baby.

According to what she told Kitty Holland, this young woman could not even tell a friend because “. . . For me this was shameful. In our culture if a girl gives birth to a child before marriage everything is finished. No one can respect you. As well as that, for me, with the rape, it was difficult.”

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