In recent years, the State has made progress in protecting women and children from domestic violence through, for example, the establishment in 2007 of Cosc and the recent amendments by Minister Alan Shatter to the Domestic Violence Act 1996. However, much more needs to be done. By Alison Spillane of the Irish Feminist Network.
Following the Universal Periodic Review of Ireland’s human rights record in early October the Irish government accepted recommendations from five UN Member States in relation to domestic violence. These recommendations included a request by Switzerland that Ireland “submit rapidly its national report to the CEDAW committee that was due in 2007 and include a section on violence against women as requested by the committee”.
The Irish government also agreed to examine a further four recommendations including Austria’s suggestion that Ireland sign the Council of Europe Convention on Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
This failure to meet international standards in tackling domestic violence was highlighted elsewhere this year when SAFE Ireland published its Domestic Violence Services Statistics for 2010 which showed that while over 7,000 individual women received support from Domestic Violence Support Services last year, on over 3,236 occasions services were unable to accommodate women and their children because the refuge was full or there was no refuge in their area. Ireland has just one third of the refuge capacity recommended by the Council of Europe. With budget cutbacks, essential new refuges are not opening and existing refuges are finding it more difficult to maintain their services.
As well as the above, government must also be aware of new developments around the issue of domestic violence such as the way in which technology – and particularly social media – can be manipulated to facilitate abuse. The increasing role played by technology was emphasised by Women’s Aid in June this year when the organisation published its Annual Statistics for 2010. The report found that social networking sites are being manipulated by abusers to intimidate victims. Women have disclosed abuse such as their mobile phone calls and texts being monitored and social media and technology being used to stalk and control them.
In Budget 2012 the government must, at a minimum, protect existing levels of funding to services for violence against women. As the National Women’s Council noted in its pre-budget submission, these services are historically under-funded as it stands – additional funding cuts introduced since the onset of the recession mean that the situation has reached crisis point. As the NWCI observes, “The consequences are that more and more women are not being accommodated in refuges or are on waiting lists for support services. Services have been forced to cut positions, programmes or hours of operation. Moreover, domestic violence frontline services have not been able to develop adequate initiatives to better respond to the needs of marginalised women such as migrant, refugee, asylum seeking, Traveller women and women with disabilities”.
In addition to protecting funding for existing specialist services, the government should also commit to meeting the standards set by the Council of Europe as regards refuge capacity and produce a detailed timeframe for the achievement of this goal. Further legal reform is also necessary in areas such as the eligibility criteria for applying for Safety Orders and the length of cohabitation requirement for Barring Orders. One in five women in Ireland experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime – government inaction on this issue cannot be tolerated.
This post originally appeared on the Women’s Aid 16 Days Blog as part of the One in Five 16 days of action campaign which aims to raise awareness of the reality of domestic violence and to push for positive change to increase women's safety. For more information see here: http://www.womensaid.ie/campaigns/
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