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Concerns raised over 'limited' access to appropriate sex education for Irish kids

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has set out its recommendations for key priority actions for the State.

The Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence comes into force in Ireland today.
The Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence comes into force in Ireland today.
Image: Shutterstock/l i g h t p o e t

TODAY MARKS THE entry into force in Ireland of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

After years of campaigning by women’s groups, the government ratified the Istanbul Convention in March. 

The convention is a significant international legal instrument which requires criminalising or legally sanctioning different forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, sexual harassment and psychological violence.

Ireland, which signed the convention three years ago, became the 34th Council of Europe Member State out of 47 to ratify the Convention.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has marked the entry into force of the convention by setting out its recommendations for key priority actions for the State.

In a policy statement issued today to all Oireachtas members, key priority areas for policy and legislative action are highlighted.

The Commission is calling for data collection on violence against women is currently lacking. It states that data collection must be made more robust if the State is to understand the nature and scale of the issue.

It added that it is also concerned about the limited access to comprehensive relationship and sexuality education for children in Ireland, including education that raises awareness of and fosters responsible sexual behaviour.

Violence against women

It states a greater focus is needed in combatting violence against specific groups of women such as women with disabilities, women from Traveller and Roma communities, LGBTI+ women, as well as women in institutional settings.

The State should also develop gender-sensitive asylum and reception procedures and support services for asylum seekers, said the Commission.

It added that the overall the protection of women from violence should be central to immigration reform.

The Commission said it is concerned about recent reports which indicate that Ireland has less than a third of the number of domestic violence refuges it is required to have under EU standards.

Currently, nine counties in Ireland have no women refuges.

Access to specialist support services  must be improved and services for victims must receive sustainable funding, said the commission.

Increased garda training must be a priority, as should changes in the courts.

While the recent State awareness campaign on sexual violence and harassment is welcome, specific groups including women and girls with disabilities should be targeted in such campaigns, said the commission.

In a bid to tackle Ireland’s “disturbingly high levels” of sexual harassment, the Minister for Justice recently launched a three-year national awareness ad campaign calling on the public to stop making excuses for sexual harassment and violence.

When ratifying the convention earlier this year, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said “I think a lot of people will realise that there is an epidemic of violence against women and that needs to stop”.

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