Women’s Council calls for review of femicides

Four women have died violently in Ireland so far this year

Orla O’Connor, the director of the National Women’s Council has said ‘we need to ask what is going wrong in our society that these horrific crimes are happening’. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Orla O’Connor, the director of the National Women’s Council has said ‘we need to ask what is going wrong in our society that these horrific crimes are happening’. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The National Women’s Council has called on the Government to carry out a comprehensive review of femicides in Ireland.

It has said the Government must ask why Irish men are committing such violent crimes against women.

Orla O’Connor, director of the organisation, said the Government should follow the multi-agency approach of other nations by closely examining the lives of perpetrators to figure how what happens in a man’s life that drives him to kill a woman.

Her comments follow the death of Jastine Valdez, a 24-year-old Filipino student who was abducted near Enniskerry last Saturday. Ms Valdez’s death came just a week after the sexual assault and murder of 14-year-old Ana Kriegel in Co Dublin.

“These two young women were going about usual every day things, there’s nothing they could have done to prevent what happened,” said Ms O’Connor. “We need to ask what is going wrong in our society that these horrific crimes are happening.”

Pornography

Síona Cahill, incoming president of the Union of Students in Ireland, warned that sex education in schools is continuing to “fail our young people” and that teenage boys’ consumption of pornography is playing a dangerous role in their perception of women.

“I’d love to say we’ve made great gains in our consent classes but it’s way too late,” said Ms Cahill. “The onus shouldn’t be on third level when we haven’t touched it at second level. The poor psychological relationship from men starts when boys start watching porn at 13 years of age. That’s where their education is coming from when their schools aren’t talking about sex outside biology class.”

An average of 10 women have died violently each year since Women’s Aid began collecting statistics on femicide - the killing of a woman or girl on account of their gender - in 1996. Nearly 90 per cent of the 216 women who have died violently since 1996 knew their killers.

The number of women killed per year in Ireland dropped to five deaths in 2015 and two deaths in 2016. However, in 2017 nine women were killed violently and four have already died so far this year - Joanne Ball (38), Natalia Karaczyn (30), Anastasia Kriegel (14) and Jastine Valdez (24).

Cultural shift

Christina Sherlock from Women’s Aid says a cultural shift is urgently needed to reduce the number of women being killed by men they know.

“It’s really hard to say if things are getting safer for women when Women’s Aid is hearing day in, day out from women living with abuse and violence in their own homes,” she said. “We know levels of domestic violence and sexual violence in this country are not dropping.

“We can’t just be telling women not to walk down the laneway alone, what happens if you live down that laneway? We need to tackle the root causes.”

Ian Power, executive director of Spunout.ie, agrees that staying safe should not purely be the responsibility of the woman or the victim. The focus must be educating young men from an early age.

Mr Power says he has noticed more engagement from young men when it comes to education around consent and violence towards women but found the reaction to the Belfast rape trial deeply unsettling. “You could see men responding in a threatened way, in a way that they feel under scrutiny and being blamed. We need to talk about how women are the victims in this debate, not men.”

He advised young women and their parents not to panic following the news of the recent deaths of two women in Dublin.

“We have to live our lives and we cannot be entirely governed by risks. We should think of practical things to do but unfortunately, at the end of the day, it’s down to shifting the culture.”