Oireachtas to hear calls for dedicated refuge space for domestic violence victims

Oireachtas to hear calls for dedicated refuge space for domestic violence victims

The committee will also hear concerns about wider issues of gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation. File Picture.

The need for refuge space for victims of domestic violence will be highlighted on Thursday during a hearing of the Oireachtas committee on gender equality.

The committee will also hear concerns about female genital mutilation, which the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality recommended in a report last year that should be recognised as a ground for seeking asylum.

The sitting of the committee will hear from representatives of Safe Ireland, the Men’s Development Network, and AkiDwA, which works to promote equality and justice for migrant women living in Ireland.

Last April, the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality issued a report calling for a wide range of measures to be implemented across a range of areas, including gender-based violence.

The Oireachtas committee, chaired by Labour leader, Ivana Bacik, was set up to address the recommendations made in the report.

Among the measures recommended was the provision of enough sufficient publicly-funded beds, shelters, and accommodation for victims and survivors of domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence across the country.

Safe Ireland is constituted of 39 independent domestic violence service and refuge providers across the country. Last year, it published a policy document called 'No Going Back', in which the organisation said there was a need for a single minister for gender, sexual, and domestic violence, which would have a reach across all of the departments and agencies with which a survivor may interact.

Its chief executive, Mary McDermott, will tell the committee members that it is important that a planned, well-designed model of domestic violence refuge and support service be developed in Ireland.

Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland. Picture: Leon Farrell / RollingNews.ie
Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland. Picture: Leon Farrell / RollingNews.ie

But she will highlight to the committee that crisis refuge accommodation is not a solution on its own to the longer-term accommodation and support needs of women in their journey to freedom from domestic abuse situations.

The National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual, and Gender-Based Violence is due for publication this month and is expected to identify the need for more than 80 new refuge spaces, as a priority for people leaving domestic violence situations.

Meanwhile, representatives of AkiDwA are expected to address the issue of female genital mutilation, an area which the organisation has previously highlighted.

It has a network of volunteer community health ambassadors throughout Ireland raising awareness about FGM in their local communities.

The Citizens' Assembly report also recommends the creation of a place at Cabinet for a single minister with direct responsibility for the co-ordination and implementation of a national strategy to “prevent and counter domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence".

A review and reform of the courts system are also recommended.

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