'Everyday sexism' and abuse preventing female political participation

Ivana Bacik "became quickly conscious how pale, male and stale" the Seanad was back in 2007
'Everyday sexism' and abuse preventing female political participation

Ivana Bacik "When I was elected, it was pointed out to me that I am only the 131st woman ever to have been elected to the Dáil, a shocking statistic." Photo: Gareth Chaney /Collins Photos

High levels of gender-based abuse and harassment are an increasing barrier to women’s becoming involved in political participation.

That is according to Labour TD Ivana Bacik, who says that women experience such misogynistic abuse, particularly online, in carrying out their everyday roles as public representatives.

She was speaking at a webinar by the National Observatory on Violence Against Women and Girls, chaired by the National Women’s Council. 

The webinar was held as part of the 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence, which concluded on Friday.

“When I was elected, it was pointed out to me that I am only the 131st woman ever to have been elected to the Dáil, a shocking statistic especially considering it is over a century since we won the right to vote," she said.

"The shockingly low representation of women as Oireachtas members struck me when I was first elected to the Seanad in 2007, and became quickly conscious how pale, male and stale it was – and how few women had ever been elected to the Oireachtas.” 

She hopes the 40% quota for candidates of each gender in the next election will help increase female Dáil representation.

“Experience elsewhere, and now in Ireland, clearly shows that, without enforceable legal targets or quotas, the numbers of women in politics will not rise and those women who are in political life will continue to experience ‘everyday sexism’. Irish democracy will remain unfinished and incomplete.” 

During the webinar, director of the National Women’s Council, Orla O’Connor, called for an integrated approach to tackle men’s violence against women through the creation of one government department to tackle the area.

Ms O’Connor said: “We are calling on the Government to make transformative change to being truly victim and survivor-centred. This means ensuring that violence against women is the responsibility of one Government Department, and ending the current disjointed approach where the Department of Justice is responsible for legislation and policy and Tusla is responsible for frontline services and their funding.” 

She said there needs to be wrap-around supports for victims from the moment they come forward to disclose abuse.

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