Labour calls for senior minister responsible for gender-based violence

Need for public awareness campaign about violence against women, says Bacik

Labour Party call for senior minister to tackle gender-based violence. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Labour Party call for senior minister to tackle gender-based violence. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

There should be a senior Cabinet minister with responsibility for tackling gender-based violence, following the violent death of schoolteacher Ashling Murphy, the Labour Party has said.

Ivana Bacik, Labour TD for Dublin Bay South, said the party would be specifically calling for a full minister with those responsibilities during the debate in the Dáil on Wednesday afternoon, reflecting on the horrific circumstances of Ms Murphy’s death.

Ms Bacik said what had happened was a reminder of the extent to which women endure violence, harassment and abuse on a daily basis.

“I think it’s also been a wake up call for many men or male colleagues who may not have been aware of the extent to which this has been the case until now.”

As incoming chair of the Gender Equality Commission, she said she would have responsibility for implementing the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality.

She said that an important one was the need for a minister at Cabinet level to take responsibility for co-ordination of gender equality issues.

She said she would also be calling for a national public awareness campaign of zero tolerance for violence against women.

“We must challenge gender stereotypes and a sense of entitlement, in particular, of young men who aren’t simply aware of the experience of women and the fears that all women have.”

Action

The Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns, speaking a little later, pointed to the woman and children who had died in recent years at the hands of violent males. She also said so many others had experienced rape and sexual assault and many had to flee their homes.

“We need to see tangible actions from the Government on this. We need action in relation to refuge space for domestic silence. We need sex education and we need reform of our legal and justice system in relation to sexual violence,” she said.

She added that the Istanbul Convention recommended one refuge space per 10,000 people and for an unknown reason, Ireland is providing one refugee space for every 10,000 women, or 50 per cent of the recommendation.

Ms Bacik was speaking at the launch of a party Bill which would allow women to take up 20 days of paid leave for miscarriage and up to 10 days off work for any employee who has to take time off because of fertility treatment.

Ms Bacik, and Senators Annie Hoey and Marie Sherlock, pointed out that at present women had to take holiday time or sick leave in order to take time off work for miscarriage or IVF related reasons.

She said the initiative had come through the INTO teachers union.

“Women feel embarrassed speaking with their principals and there was a feeling of stigmatisation around fertility treatment, around miscarriage and around reproductive help,” said Ms Bacik.

The Bill has passed second stage and the Government is going to give time for it to be debated in Seanad Éireann on Thursday.