Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) has called for an independent authority, such as an Ombudsman, to monitor domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence.
The Network and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will meet with the international independent expert body, GREVIO (Group of Experts on Action Against Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence), which is monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention (IC), a human rights treaty on violence against women and domestic violence which Ireland has signed up to.
The Rape Crisis Network is concerned the State’s current strategy on domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence does not include provision for independent monitoring.
It is calling on GREVIO to assess the need to establish a role, like an Ombudsman, to be responsible for monitoring progress in Ireland.
An ombudsman would scrutinise the coordination and implementation of policy and practice, under the proposal.
The office should be given powers and independence in legislation so that it can do this work without fear or interference and it should be survivor-centred and transparent.
Currently, external evaluation rests with frontline NGOs which have to try to hold accountable the very bodies they rely on for funding and their continued existence.
Monday is the first opportunity for NGOs to report directly to GREVIO on what they have observed that the Irish State has done, is doing, and will need to do in the future to respond effectively to rising levels of domestic and gender-based violence.
“The State has failed thus far to initiate, resource, and place on a statutory footing a mechanism for independently monitoring and evaluating the implementation of policies to prevent and combat violence against women,” said Clíona Saidléar, the executive director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland.
“The Istanbul Convention not only requires the securing of a coordination body such as is being devised right now, but also effective monitoring and evaluation.
"We have learned many times over in Ireland, particularly around sexual violence, that leaving authorities to police themselves is bad practice. We cannot begin this new page in addressing sexual violence by replicating old and failed practices.
"This would be a lost opportunity in this government's determination to transform our response to domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence (DSGBV) — and for RCNI we fear a fatal flaw.”
Other recommendations include an overhaul of funding.
So far, the Irish State has wholly failed to put in place adequate, nationally planned, equitable, and transparent funding to respond to sexual violence up to and including 2023 allocation mechanisms and additional funding under the new strategy, RCNI said.
A dedicated strategy to collect DSGBV administrative data is also needed, RCNI said.
A training strategy and curricula must be developed for all relevant professionals stipulated by GREVIO, to include the digital and gendered dimensions of sexual violence, RCNI said.
It also called for improved access to justice, including the fast-tracking of cases involving any form of violence against women, including attempted violence, psychological, and cyber violence.