Thursday, 15 November 2018
Domestic Violence Policy
I thank the Minister for coming to the House. Sunday, 25 November is the UN international day for the elimination of violence against women. Can we imagine an Ireland where women and children are free from domestic violence? One in four women experiences physical or sexual violence from a partner and one in three experiences severe psychological abuse. If we were to apply those averages to this House, five out of 15 female Senators could be survivors of some form of intimate partner abuse. Across the country as a whole, we would be looking at approximately 475,000 women. What a transformation it would be for them if they were free from violence and abuse. Unfortunately, such an Ireland is difficult for many of us to imagine and that is why each and every one of us must do our utmost to support women experiencing abuse. Virtually all of us, as public representatives, will have been approached by women in difficult circumstances. While we may be able to give them advice, a listening ear or even, in some cases, refuge in our own homes, what is needed is a co-ordinated response.
The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act in May this year was very significant. It marked a sea change in our understanding of domestic violence and I commend the Minister, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy David Stanton, and former Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, on having delivered such legislation. It has made protecting and supporting those experiencing violence a priority, and it has broadened our understanding of intimate partner abuse, particularly by providing for a new criminal offence of coercive control. It also includes provisions which move us closer to ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, otherwise known as the Istanbul Convention. It is in this area that I am seeking clarification from the Minister today.
There can be no real equality between women and men unless women experiencing gender-based violence are fully supported by State agencies and institutions. There are some fantastic voluntary organisations, such as Safe Ireland which has its headquarters in my home town of Athlone, and Women’s Aid which provides services and support for women experiencing domestic violence. They do a fantastic job and we need to ensure we match their commitment and dedication by doing our part. I note that the Minister is fully committed to ratifying the convention, and I am seeking an update from him of where we are on that journey.