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Posts Tagged ‘Women and Men’

International Women’s Day and the Women’s Charter

March 8, 2010 1 comment

Today is International Women’s Day. The UN’s Theme for the Day is ‘Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All‘. A directory of Irish events to mark the day is available here.

On March 5, the President of the European Commission launched a ‘Women’s Charter‘, which aims at building a gender perspective into all Commission policies for the next five years.

The Charter presents a series of commitments based on agreed principles of equality between women and men. It aims to promote:

  • equality in the labour market and equal economic independence for women and men, namely through the Europe 2020 strategy;
  • equal pay for equal work and work of equal value by working with Member States to reduce significantly the gender pay gap over the next five years; (In Ireland, the average pay gap stands at 17.1 %)
  • equality in decision-making through EU incentive measures; (see a picture of Irish performance here)
  • dignity, integrity and an end to gender-based violence through a comprehensive policy framework;
  • gender equality beyond the EU by pursuing the issue in external relations and with international organisations.

The Charter will be followed by a new strategy for gender equality to be adopted by the Commission in mid-2010.

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Department of Foreign Affairs’ Conflict Resolution Unit

February 5, 2010 2 comments

In 2007  the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs opened its Conflict Resolution Unit. The rationale behind the move was based upon

Given Ireland’s proud tradition of UN peacekeeping, our commitment to overseas development aid, our experience of the peace process in Northern Ireland and our commitment to human rights and the international rule of law, we are well placed to offer assistance to other countries on their path to peace and stability. The CRU is based within the Department’s Political Division, and cooperates closely with Development Cooperation and  Anglo-Irish Division.

At the time of  the unit’s creation, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern T.D. was reported as stating that Ireland’s experience in Northern Ireland, its long history of peacekeeping meant that we were particularly suited to take on this role. Though editorials at the time argued that as Ireland is a threat to nobody and unlikely to be suspected of putting its own interests ahead of international peace and securitythis seems to show a rather naïve appreciation of what a western country and a member of the EU can potentially be percieved as internationally.

The creation of this unit has resulted in a number of initiatives in co-operation with the United Nations and NGOs in areas such as Peacebuilding, Peacemaking and Human Rights in Conflict. One of the most interesting areas of focus is in Women Peace and Security . This is the response of the Irish Government to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security which states that:

7. Urges Member States to increase their voluntary financial, technical and logistical support for gender-sensitive training efforts, including those undertaken by relevant funds and programmes, inter alia, the United Nations Fund for Women and United Nations Children’s Fund, and by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other relevant bodies;

8. Calls on all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, to adopt a gender perspective, including, inter alia: (a) The special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction; (b) Measures that support local women’s peace initiatives and indigenous processes for conflict resolution, and that involve women in all of the implementation mechanisms of the peace agreements; (c) Measures that ensure the protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls, particularly as they relate to the constitution, the electoral system, the police and the judiciary;

Ireland is involved in a scheme which has been put together with Timor Leste, Liberia and Northern Ireland in a cross-learning initiative to aid developing Ireland’s National Action Plan and to facilitate the sharing of experiences of women in conflict situations. This has involved mini-conferences where models, experiences and recommendations were shared among the countries with more planned for 2010. Dame Nuala O’Loan has recently been appointed as Ireland’s Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security and she will now lead this initiative. This is an innovative  move within both this Unit and the Department as a whole which hopefully will result in positive futures for all women who are involved and caught up in conflict.

Call for Ban on FGM in Ireland

February 5, 2010 3 comments

According to a report in the Irish Times, a number of participants at an event held by the National Steering Committee on Female Genital Mutilation to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM called for a stepping up of the campaign for a new law banning the practice of FGM in Ireland.

During the event, serious concerns were expressed about whether the current legal framework in Ireland served as an effective tool for addressing the practise of FGM. While Government advice has indicated that female genital mutilation constitutes an offence under assault laws, speakers at the seminar said distinct legislation was needed.

According to the Irish Times report, a spokesman for Minister for Health Mary Harney said: “The question of introducing specific legislation to ban female genital mutilation remains under review. However, we cannot be specific on a timeframe for this review at this stage.”

The Irish Steering Committee came together in early 2008 to develop the Plan of Action to address Female Genital Mutilation, which was finalised in late 2008. The report is a valuable source of information on the practise of FGM in Ireland and elsewhere. The document highlights that ‘a proactive and coordinated response is required to prevent the establishment of the practice [of FGM] in Ireland and to provide care for women and girls living in Ireland who have already undergone FGM in their country of origin’. It identifies a number of strategies ‘as being essential to addressing FGM in Ireland and in other countries through Irish development policies’, focusing on actions under 5 strategy headings: legal, asylum, health, community and development aid. From a legal perspective, the report quotes earlier research carried out by the Women’s Health Council which, amongst other things, highlighted the shortcomings and the inappropriateness of existing legislation in terms of prosecuting FGM. Read more…

Enright on Budget 2010: Women, Poverty & Violence

December 10, 2009 2 comments

This post is HRinI’s final contribution to the 16 days campaign. It relies heavily on the National Women’s Council of Ireland Pre-Budget Submission 2010. Whether or not this budget represents a last ‘big push’ towards economic recovery,  for many Irish women it is not a push from manageable to bearable. It is a push from just about bearable to unsupportable.

Women had tended to enter this recession on a weak footing, because many women work ‘flexible’, informal and part-time jobs which enable them to find time for caring responsibilities within the family; these, of course, are still a significant factor in women’s career decisions. Women in such jobs have tended to lose ‘hours’ as a result of the economic downturn. (Caring responsibilities have also exerted pressure from another direction as some employers have cut back on supports for family women in an effort to save money).

Read more…

A, B and C v. Ireland – Before the Grand Chamber Soon.

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

The Irish Times reminded us on Monday that the case of A, B and C v. Ireland, which examines our restrictive abortion laws, will be before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in a week. I posted about the case  in October. We will cover the case as it progresses.

The Supreme Court, Equality, Golfing and ‘Need’

November 3, 2009 6 comments

UPDATE: The full text of the judgment (4 opinions) is now available here. (h/t Vicky Conway)

The Irish Times reports today that  the Supreme Court has held that Portmarnock Golf Club is not a “discriminating” club under the Equal Status Act. Women are permitted to play at Portmarnock but may not become full members. By a majority of three to two, the Supreme Court upheld a 2005 High Court decision (Equality Authority v. Portmarnock Golf Club & Ors [2005] IEHC 235 (10 June 2005) that the club, while refusing to admit women as members, is not a “discriminating” club under the Act because it fell within exemption provisions in Section 9 of the Act. Section 9 provides that a club “shall not be considered to be a discriminating club…if its principal purpose is to cater only for the needs of persons of a particular gender..\[or] it refuses membership to other members”. There is an account of some of the argument in the Supreme Court here. The Times reports quotes from the judgments of Denham and Hardiman JJ (pictured at left)

The authority argued the club is a discriminatory club under the Act on grounds its “principal purpose” is to play golf, not to cater only for the “needs” of men. The club contended its principal purpose was to cater only for the golfing needs of men.

In his judgment allowing the appeal, Mr Justice Hardiman said the club argued it was a gentlemen’s golf club, a golf club for gentlemen. The authority said that could not be so within Section 9 because, in the authority’s view, the club provided facilities for the game of golf which was not a “need” of men.

The ordinary, natural and literal meaning of the word “needs” is that set out in the Oxford English Dictionary and it was broad enough to embrace social, cultural and sporting needs as well as more basic needs for things such as air, food and water, the judge said.

In his view, the authority’s construction of the term needs was “a narrow, outdated and unnatural one”.

Dissenting, Ms Justice Denham said she was of the view the principal purpose of Portmarnock golf club was golf and that it catered for the needs of men and women, not just men.

A spokesman for the Equality Authority said the authority welcomed the fact that the Supreme Court had now clarified the law and said the Oireachtas could now examine whether or not the Equal Status Act needed to be amended. Joanna McMinn of the Equality Rights Alliance said the law needed to be changed and the decision was a bad day for equality and a bad day for women. Commentaryto follow when the judgment is published in full. Back at the time of the High Court decision, the Equality Authority were closer to the mark:

The Judgement maintains an unsatisfactory status quo. A significant institution in our society can continue to exclude women from membership. It can continue to set a standard that runs counter to any aspirations we might have as a society for greater equality between women and men. This is unsatisfactory in a context of significant and persistent inequalities experienced by women in a broad range of sectors. We still hope that Portmarnock might consider their options and change their membership rules so as to establish a new and more acceptable standard in regard to gender equality

Update 2:

  • Mr. Justice Geoghegan latched on to one of the stranger aspects of this body of law. “He described as “extraordinary” the fact, where a club is found to be discriminatory, the only sanction that may be imposed on it under the Act is withdrawal of its drinks licence (if it has one). If it chose to lose its licence, a club could continue to forever discriminate without penalty… This “tiptoeing” by the drafters had created real problems of interpretation of the Act.” The link also covers Mr. Justice Hardiman’s sharp criticisms of the Equality Authority.

Update 3:

Lots of coverage in Wednesday’s papers:

  • Carol Coulter in the Irish Times says that ‘the unmentioned elephant in the court-room was the undefined, but undoubted, social and business advantages conferred by membership of a historically exclusive club, whose exclusivity was maintained by yesterday’s judgment.’ The Equality and Rights Alliance make the same point.
  • The members of Portmarnock golf club talk about ordinariness and common sense here
  • The Times also gives a summary of the dissenting judgments here while the Examiner has a pithy quote from Denham J. : “Portmarnock Golf Club is exactly what its name says – a golf club in Portmarnock,” she said.

Bekker on Human Trafficking and the Law in Ireland

October 20, 2009 1 comment

Act to Prevent Trafficking Ireland held a conference in Dublin on Monday entitled ‘Human Trafficking: Psychologically Shattered & Caught in a Legal Quagmire’. Hilkka Bekker, Senior Solicitor at the Immigration Council of Ireland, presented an informative paper on the inadequacy of  Ireland’s current law to address the problems faced by many victims of trafficking.  The Irish Times summarises the paper in its report on the conference:

Hilkka Becker, a solicitor with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, called for a quick and streamlined “avenue”, with an independent appeals mechanism, to compensate trafficking victims for the trauma they had suffered.

In cases where the trafficker could not be found, there was an obligation on the State to provide compensation, she told the conference organised by Act to Prevent Trafficking (APT).

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board offered a “theoretical possibility” for claiming such compensation, but only for out of pocket expenses and not pain and suffering, Ms Bekker said.

It was also possible to sue under employment law but in the case of victims of sexual exploitation, the State was unlikely to recognise the form of the exploitation suffered under the legislation. She said the council was seriously concerned victims of trafficking often did not seem to get the breathing space to allow them to recover, escape the influence of the traffickers and make an “informed decision” on whether to co-operate with gardaí.

The State should ensure permission to remain here was not dependant on whether a victim was prepared to co-operate in a prosecution of traffickers.

Addendum: See the ICI’s Press Release on Human Trafficking here

There are glaring gaps in terms of the type of accommodation provided to women and girls who escape their traffickers, we need to ensure that they received access to independent legal advice at an early stage after they come forward or are rescued and there are insufficient guarantees that they will not be prosecuted for offences they might have committed as a direct result of their having been trafficked.

In addition, the process of officially recognising someone as a victim of trafficking and providing a reflection and recovery period must be improved with an appropriate structure and timeframe that reflects the urgency of the need to ensure she is safe and receiving the services she needs….

The Immigrant Council of Ireland calls for Ireland to adopt the approach of Sweden, Norway and Iceland, where purchasing sexual services has been outlawed.’