Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Justice and Equality
Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence
197. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the actions currently being taking by her Department to tackle gender-based violence; whether initial targets in this regard are ambitious enough, with particular reference to the silent and ongoing nature of this issue and the serious shortcomings identified by Grevio, the monitoring body of the Istanbul Convention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50506/23]
198. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will have regard to the serious shortcoming in how men, women and children in the State are protected from violence, as identified by Grevio in a recent Council of Europe report; if further consideration will be given to concerns expressed in this report, given the urgent need to protect men, women and children against gender-based violence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50507/23]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 198 together.
Fear of harassment and violence should never be normalised and nobody should have to think about it as they go about their daily life.
Combatting all forms of violence against women and domestic violence is a priority for this Government.
This is reflected in a record 25pc increase of €12m in Budget 2024 allocations and in the development of policy and legislation.
A number of the recommendations GREVIO made are focused on issues we are already aware of, and are working on addressing through various Government policies and approaches
In fact, it is noted in the report, that our Zero Tolerance Strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence which was launched by the Government last year, contains targets that seek to address many of the recommendations raised.
A new statutory based DSGBV Agency will be established by early 2024 with a core budget of €43m provided under Budget 2024.
One of the functions of the agency will be to drive the implementation of the Zero Tolerance Strategy and as part of that, the agency will lead on doubling the number of refuge places available across Ireland over the lifetime of the Strategy to 280. To achieve this we are working with all stakeholders to put in place the necessary structures and supports to accelerate the delivery of additional refuge accommodation year on year.
New legislation has recently been enacted which doubles the maximum sentence for assault causing harm to 10 years, and to introduce standalone offences of stalking and non-fatal strangulation. These are commons offences in domestic violence cases and expands the range of sentencing available to judges in such cases.
The Department recognises that historically domestic violence has been underreported due to a number of factors including societal attitudes. The CSO is now working on a Domestic Violence Survey to provide more accurate prevalence data, and a key aim of the Zero Tolerance Strategy is to increase awareness of what constitutes DSGBV and to encourage victims to report such crimes to An Garda Síochána and seek help.
The Department of Health is leading on a review of the issue of disclosing counselling records on foot of an action in the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence
Under the current Zero Tolerance implementation plan there are 144 actions assigned to various Departments, the majority of which have, or are, progressing in line with the specified timeframes, including the following:
- l commenced the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Act 2023 earlier this month;
- The Sexual Violence Survey 2022 was published by the CSO providing high quality national prevalence data on sexual violence;
- The Family Courts Bill 2022, published on 1 December 2022, provides for the creation of new dedicated Family Courts as divisions within the existing court structures;
- Awareness campaigns on intimate image abuse and victims of crime have been produced, with another on consent in development.