‘Systematic violation’ of Irish women’s rights criticised by UN expert

Eighth Amendment is responsible for violation of fundamental rights, says Frances Raday

Frances Raday said the referendum would  bring “a welcome note of clarity regarding the systematic violation of fundamental rights that the Eighth Amendment means for pregnant people”

Frances Raday said the referendum would bring “a welcome note of clarity regarding the systematic violation of fundamental rights that the Eighth Amendment means for pregnant people”

 

A human rights expert behind United Nations efforts to end discrimination against women has described the Eighth Amendment as being responsible for “systematic violation of the human rights of women and girls” in Ireland.

Frances Raday characterised the referendum as bringing “a welcome note of clarity regarding the systematic violation of fundamental rights that the Eighth Amendment means for pregnant people, particularly survivors of rape, in Ireland”.

Ms Raday said in a statement: “The Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, by making a symmetrical equivalence between the right to life of foetuses and women, results in the systematic violation of the human rights of women and girls”.

Ms Raday is former chair of the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women as well as an expert Member of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Her comments, and her implicit call for the amendment to be voted out of the Constitution in the coming referendum, were welcomed by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), which is campaigning for repeal.

‘Right to be free’

Ms Raday said that the effect of the amendment, inserted into the constitution after a referendum in 1983, “may result in grave violation of the right to be free from arbitrary detention”.

She said also that the amendment, as it stood, could give rise to “cases which would give grounds for allegations of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, are any cases where pregnant women and girls have been detained in psychiatric institutions although their distress was, according to psychiatric opinion, caused by pregnancy and not by a psychiatric disorder; have been subjected to forced feeding in response to refusal to eat; or have been refused access to legal abortion where the pregnancy resulted from rape, including in the case of pregnancies of girls under the age of 18”.

Ms Raday’s remarks were welcomed by the director of the ICCL, Liam Herrick. “A vote to retain the Eighth Amendment is a vote to continue to subject women and girls who have been raped to treatment that may amount to torture or arbitrary detention,” he said.

“It is a vote to continue denying fundamental rights to pregnant people. It is a vote to continue to ignore the plight of the most marginalised in our society. It is a vote which says that cruel mistreatment of women and girls in crisis should be allowed to continue unabated.”