IRELAND’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD: Women’s rights ‘are not respected here’

Ireland is eight years late in submitting a major report to the UN on tackling discrimination against women.

And an expert in human rights has responded to the delay by saying “the autonomy and bodily integrity of women” are not respected in Ireland.

The report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women was due in 2007 but has yet to be submitted.

The UN has repeatedly criticised Ireland’s record on human rights and government inaction on several fronts, including the rights of disabled people and victims of symphysiotomy; the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group; the rights of transgender people.

A Government report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was due in 2009 but was only submitted in 2013.

The four-year delay follows UN bodies criticising Ireland for its treatment of women and children.

Last July, UN Human Rights committee chairman Nigel Rodley gave a scathing assessment of Ireland’s human rights record in relation to women.

“The Magdalene laundries, the mother-and-baby homes, the child abuse, the symphysiotomy — it’s quite a collection and it’s a collection that has carried on [for a] period that it’s hard to imagine any State party tolerating,” said Mr Rodley.

“And I guess I can’t prevent myself from observing that [they] are not disconnected from the institutional belief system that has predominated.”

In a statement, the Department of Justice said a resolution adopted last April by the General Assembly of the UN encouraged the human rights treaty bodies to offer to State parties a simplified reporting procedure. The department said Ireland intends to use this.

It said: “On certain conditions, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in December last made the simplified reporting procedure available on a pilot basis to state parties whose reports were overdue. Ireland has notified the committee that we will avail of this procedure. Regarding Ireland’s report, the next step is for the committee to send us the list of issues.”

In January, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan announced his intention to set up an interdepartmental committee on human rights to “bring greater focus and coherence to our work on human rights”.

However, writing in the Irish Examiner, Mark Kelly, executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, says Ireland is not a State “where the autonomy and bodily integrity of women is respected”. He claimed that when abuses are uncovered, authorities seek to protect vested interests rather than secure justice and redress for victims.

“Contrary to recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee, 80-year old survivors of symphysiotomy have been forced to choose between indemnifying their abusers in exchange for cash and fighting High Court actions to vindicate their rights,” writes Mr Kelly.

“The voices of the few surviving former residents of the Magdalene laundries have been stifled, and repeated calls by the UN Committee Against Torture for an independent inquiry into their treatment have been ignored.

“From the moment that a woman in Ireland becomes pregnant, our laws decree that, contrary to international human rights standards, she relinquishes the right to determine whether she will carry that pregnancy to term.”

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