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Ireland needs more proactive legislation to combat domestic violence- Cllr Louise Dunne

5 March, 2015 - by Louise Dunne

Tallaght Sinn Féin Councillor Louise Dunne has highlighted the Irish government’s lack of action in signing and ratifying the Istanbul convention at an International Women’s Day event in Brussels. Cllr Dunne also compared the Irish situation to a number of successful initiatives in other jurisdictions including Austria.

Speaking today Cllr Dunne said:

 "I had a motion passed in South Dublin County Council last month that called on the Minister of Justice and Equality, to create further legislative measures, and for other relevant departments to commit to increasing funding to vital services.

Invited by MEP, Lynn Boylan, to the International Women’s Day event in the European Parliament, I highlighted the drastic cuts made to domestic violence and women’s services.  

One in five women in Ireland experience some form of domestic violence during their life time. It affects women from all walks of life.  However, domestic violence is often treated differently than other crimes. Up to 700 women and children can be left homeless due to domestic violence, with more women and children suffering in silence.  The reason for this is that Irish women are below the EU average for reporting this crime to the Gardai. 

Ireland should be striving towards policies adopted such as those in Austria where changes to the Criminal and Civil Procedure Act introduced pioneering measures and legally enshrined rights to psychosocial and legal court assistance for all victims of violent crimes. 

These changes in Austria have also resulted in the abuser having to leave the home rather that the victim and their children.  A follow up report had also showed a shift in social, cultural and political attitudes towards abused women. 

Another tool that Ireland should be adopting is self-defence. This challenges the myth that women should not fight back.  Self-defence is a preventive tool that many EU countries have adopted, which has seen women and girls empowered and setting their own boundaries while protecting themselves. 

There is a need for more political willingness to move the power from the abuser, ensuring that no more women have to suffer in silence. Drastic action is needed to challenge the discriminatory policies and budgets cuts that target the most vulnerable women in our society and women’s rights need to be a government priority.

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