The Irish Constitution contains a general provision that allows the State to give "due regard to the differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function" between men and women (Article 40.1). Gender equality legislation was introduced in the 1970s after Ireland became a member of the European Economic Community (EEC). The introduction of broader equality legislation together with new equality infrastructure in the 2000s brought in protection against discrimination on nine grounds (including age, disability, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity) in both employment and access to services. Gender machinery is centred on the statutory body for the promotion of equality, the Equality Authority, and for the enforcement of equal treatment legislation, the Equality Tribunal.


The legal minimum age for marriage in Ireland is 18 years for both sexes, although courts may allow minors over 16 years of age to enter into marriage if it is justified by serious reasons and is in the interest of both persons.[1] According to Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, 516 females and 320 males aged 15-19 entered into marriage for the first time in 2011,[2] while latest figures from the United Nations (UN) indicate that 0.4% of females aged 15-19 were married, divorced or widowed in 2011, compared to 0.2% of males in that same age range.[3]No information on customary practices could be found.

Irish legislation provides for joint parental authority over children,[4] and empowers courts to issue maintenance orders to spouses who have failed to provide maintenance to each other and their children “as is proper in the circumstances”.[5] Women and men have equal rights to initiate divorce,[6] in which case single, joint or third party child custody is decided by the court.[7] Most recent figures indicate a divorce rate of 0.7 per 1 000 people in 2011.[8]


Irish legislation provides for equal inheritance rights for wives and daughters.[9] No reports of discriminatory practices could be found.



While women in Ireland tend to shoulder most of the domestic work (wives in Ireland reportedly spent 26.3 more hours than their husbands on weekly housework in 2005[10]), 2007 data reveals that men and women in Ireland both spend on average 48 hours per week on care activities, although women spend more time than men caring for and educating children (respectively 32 hours and 20 hours per week), while men spend more time than women caring for elderly/disabled relatives (respectively 28 hours and 16 hours per week).[11]Women legally enjoy equal decision-making power over the education of their children.[12]


Prevalence of child and teenage pregnancies is dropping: 36 girls aged 15 and under gave birth in 2011 (compared to 44 in 2008); 103 sixteen year-old adolescents gave birth in 2011 (compared to 170 in 2008); 252 seventeen year-old adolescents gave birth in 2011 (compared to 378 in 2008);, 462 eighteen year-old adolescents gave birth in 2011 (compared to 698 in 2008); and 837 nineteen year-old adolescents gave birth in 2011 (compared to 1 112 in 2008).[13]The overall adolescent fertility rate was last recorded at 12.2 births per 1 000 females aged 15-19 in 2012.[14]


[1] Marriages Act 1972, s.1; Family Law Act 1995, s.31 [2] Central Statistics Office (2012), 2011 Census Results, [3] UNDESA (2013), World Marriage Data 2012 (database) [4] Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, s.6 [5] Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976, s.5 [6]Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996, s.5 [7] Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, Part III [8] European Commission (2014), Eurostat (database) [9]Succession Act 1965, Part VI[10] Strapcová K, Voicu B, Voicu M. (2008),  XIX, 3-4 [11] OECD (2014), Family database, "LMF2.5.D: Average weekly hours allocated to care activities"; F.McGinnity and H.  Russell (2008); National Women’s Council of Ireland (2009); Cullen, Delaney and Duff (2004);  Equality Authority  (2005). [12] Status of Children Act 1987, s.9 [13] Central Statistics Office (2012), "VSA04: Births by Sex of Child, Age of Mother, Statistical Indicator and Year". [14] Central Statistics Office (2013).



The government has taken measures to address violence against women. In particular, a National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence was established in 2007. The new entity drafted a National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence for 2010-14 which aims to curb violence through primary and secondary interventions as well as the “development of a systematic approach to data capture and collation”.[15]Actions already implemented under the strategy include grant funding for awareness-raising projects; the development of a pilot training pack to ensure better understanding and recognition of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence among professionals working in various health settings; the publication of a new edition of Victims Charter and Guide to the Criminal Justice System in July 2010; the organisation of an art competition entitled Speak out against Intimate Partner Violence for college students; and enhanced intergovernmental cooperation, including through joint meetings between the National Steering Committee on Violence against Women and the National Steering Committee on Violence against Men.[16]Moreover, Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) published a policy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence in 2009. In 2013, the Irish Observatory on Violence against Women published a new report highlighting the role of gender informed analysis and responses to violence against women.[17]

Domestic violence is not specifically defined in Irish legislation. However, the definition included in the 1997 Report of the Task Force on Violence Against Women is generally accepted as the standard definition in Ireland:[18] 

“Domestic Violence refers to the use of physical or emotional force or threat of physical force, including sexual violence, in close adult relationships. This includes violence perpetrated by a spouse, partner, son, daughter or any other person who has a close or blood relationship with the victim. The term “domestic violence” goes beyond actual physical violence. It can also involve emotional abuse; the destruction of property; isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support; threats to others including children; stalking; and control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone”.[19]

The Domestic Violence Act empowers Irish courts to issue safety and barring orders against perpetrators of domestic violence.[20] Safety orders are used to prohibit the violent person from further molesting, putting fear into, or threatening to use violence, and from watching or being near the victim’s home, while barring orders go further by expelling the violent person from the victim’s home.[21] Safety orders can be issued for a period of up to five years while barring orders can last up to three years.[22] A person who contravenes a safety or barring order is liable to a fine or a prison sentence of up to one year.[23]Moreover, if police officers reasonably believe that a person has or is about to break a safety or barring order, or is committing or has committed an assault wounding or inflicting bodily harm, they can arrest the person on the spot.[24]

There is no available data on the percentage of women who agree that wife beating is justified under certain circumstances.[25] According to an EU-wide survey on violence against women aged 18-74 in 2012, 15% of women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a current and/or former partner and 28% percent had reported the most serious incident of partner violence to the police. Moreover, 31% of women had experienced psychological violence by a current or former partner; 41% percent of women were aware of domestic violence in their circle of friends and family; and 22% percent were aware of domestic violence in their work environment.[26]

The most recent national study on the scale and nature of domestic abuse was carried out in 2008 by COSC (the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence). Among its findings were that 15% of women and 6% of men have experienced severely abusive behaviour from a partner and an estimated 213,000 women and 88,000 men have been severely abused by a partner at some point in their lives. Less than 25% of those severely abused reported to the police. In 2011, domestic violence services reported a 40% increase in demand for services between 2009-2011.[27]Despite this increase, funding to services has decreased significantly to a varying degree across different regions, for example a 30% cut in rape crisis services in the north-east.[28]

In January 2014, a new Child and Family Support Agency (CFSA) has been established by the Department of Children and Family Affairs (DCFA) which for the first time brings child and family social workers, family support workers, social care workers and education welfare officers together into a single agency of services that are designated to protect children and support families. It will assume responsibility from the Health Service Executive for child welfare and protection, preschool inspection, and domestic violence and gender-based violence services.

Rape is criminalised under the Criminal law (Rape) (Amendment) Act and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.[29] The Act defines rape as sexual assault (understood as “indecent assault”) that includes “penetration […] of the anus or mouth by the penis, or penetration […] of the vagina by any object held or manipulated by another person”.[30] A specific provision abolishing the marital rape exemption is included in the Act. 519 rapes were recorded in 2012, the highest number on record, while fewer cases (466) were recorded in 2013[31]

Six Sexual Assault Treatment Units have been set up nation-wide to provide free specialist care to women and men aged fourteen and over who have been raped or sexually assaulted.[32] These units provide holistic care, including emergency contraception and medication to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, forensic evidence to assist in criminal justice procedures, and psychological support.[33] Rape Crisis Centres (RCCs) and a national 24 hour helpline also provide counseling and support to victims.[34] According to latest figures released by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland in January 2013, 2 036 female survivors of sexual violence attended RCCs in 2011.[35]

Although there is no specific law on sexual harassment, it is prohibited under the Employment Equality Act and the Equal Status Act.[36] The former defines sexual harassment as any act of physical intimacy, any request for sexual favours or any other act or conduct which is unwelcome and could reasonably be regarded as sexually, or otherwise on the gender ground, offensive, humiliating or intimidation.[37] The latter defines sexual harassment in relation to access to good and services in the same terms.[38] Victims of sexual harassment can seek redress by taking their case to the Equality Tribunal or the Labour Court. If guilty, employers face a fine and/or up to two years imprisonment.[39] According to the aforementioned EU survey, 25% percent of women in Ireland reported having experienced unwelcome touching, hugging or kissing since the age of 15.

Female genital mutilation is not reported to be practiced in Ireland.[40]The Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012 was signed into law in 2012. It is now a criminal offence for someone resident in Ireland to perform FGM and it is also a criminal offence for someone resident in Ireland to take a girl to another country to perform FGM. The FGM Act 2012 was the result of years of strong lobbying by women’s, migrants' and trade union organisations.

A study conducted by AkiDwA in 2012, an organisation of African women migrants living in Ireland estimated that 3,170 women in Ireland have undergone FGM. In addition, 65% of Irish GPs said that they were unable to identify symptoms presented by FGM patients, 79% were unaware of the different types of FGM while 80% lacked knowledge of the recently passed Female Genital Mutilation Act 2012.[41]


An earlier national survey in 2002 estimated the prevalence of various forms of sexual violence against Irish women and men across the lifespan from childhood through adulthood. Among its findings were that 20% of girls and 16% of  boys in Ireland experience contact sexual abuse in childhood; 42% of women and 28% of men experienced some form of sexual abuse or assault in their lifetime; 24% of perpetrators of sexual violence against adult women are partners or former partners; just 1% of men and 8% of women reported their experience of sexual  to the police; 47% of those reporting abuse had never told anybody.[42]

A discussion document on Future Direction of Prostitution Legislation was published in 2012 following a public consultation on the future development of a legal framework to police the sex trade in Ireland. Legislation is promised during 2014.[43]

Antenatal care and family planning services are available, with latest UN figures indicating that 99.5% of pregnant women were attended by skilled health personnel at least once during pregnancy between 2008-12, and 100% by a skilled attendant at birth over that same period.[44] Latest UN figures also indicate neonatal and infant mortality rates of respectively 2 and 3 deaths per 1 000 births in 2012.[45] Moreover, 61% of mothers aged 15-49 reportedly used some form of modern contraception in 2012,[46] and the mean age at first birth has risen from 25 in 1980[47]to 30 in 2012.[48]

Abortion was strictly illegal in Ireland until 2014. Since the adoption of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 however, which entered into force on 1 January 2014, abortion is permitted if there is a real and substantial risk of the mother losing her life through physical illness or suicide.[49]In the former case the decision to abort can be made by a medical practitioner alone, whereas in the latter case the assessment must involve an obstetrician and two psychiatrists.[50]Abortion is prohibited in any other situation, including when there is a risk to the mother’s health or if the pregnancy results from rape, and is punished with a fine or a prison sentence of up to 14 years.[51] Ireland’s Constitution guarantees the freedom for pregnant women to travel outside of Ireland to seek abortion services,[52] and latest statistics released by the United Kingdom (UK) Department of Health indicate that 3 982 and 33 Irish women respectively travelled to UK and Dutch abortion clinics in 2012.[53] The abortion rate is dropping however, with the HSE indicating that the number of women giving Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics fell from 7.5 to 4.0 per 1 000 females aged 15-44 between 2001 and 2012.[54]

The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme was established in 2001 as an independent grant-aided agency to address the issues of “crisis pregnancy”, which is defined by legislation as “a pregnancy which is neither planned nor desired by the woman concerned and which represents a personal crisis for her”.[55] The Programme allocated EUR 3 million (euros) in funding to crisis pregnancies and post-termination counseling and medical check-ups in 2010 and adopted its third national strategic plan for 2012-16.[56] Recent actions carried out by the Programme in 2012 include the dissemination of 251 TRUST (Talking Relationships Understanding Sexuality Teaching) teaching packs; the development of new resources for the “” educational campaign aimed at adolescents aged 14-16; continued funding for Youth Health Cafés where youth can discuss and learn about sexual health and relationships; the dissemination of over 100 000 emergency contraception leaflets, window stickers and posters; the distribution of approximately 16 000 ‘Contraception 33-35’ leaflets; and continued crisis pregnancy and post-abortion counseling and medical check-ups.[57]


  [15] Government of Ireland (2010), National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014. [16] Government of Ireland (2012a) [17] Irish Observatory on Violence against Women (2013) [18] HSE (2010), /Domestic_HSE_Policy_on_Domestic,_Sexual_and_Gender_Based_Violence.pdf (accessed on 16 April 2014) [19] HSE (2010), [20] Domestic Violence Act 1996, ss.2-3 [21] Ibid. [22] Ibid. [23] Domestic Violence Act 1996, s.17 [24] Ibid., s.18 [25] United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2013). [26] European Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014) [27] SAFE Ireland 2012 [28] NWCI 2012 [29] Government of Ireland (2012) [30] Criminal law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, s.4 [31] Central Statistics Office (2012), “CJA01: Recorded Crime Offences (Number) by Type of Offence and Year”  [32] Health Services Executive (HSE) website, Sexual Assault Treatment Unit[33] Ibid. [34] The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre website [35] Rape Crisis Network Ireland, (2013).[36] Employment Equality Act 1998; Equal Status Act 2000 [37] Employment Equality Act 1998, s.23(3) [38] Equal Status Act 2000, s.11(5) [39] Employment Equality Act 1998, s.100(1) [40] UNICEF (2013), Childinfo – Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women (database) [41] [42] SAVI Sexual Abuse and Violent Crime in Ireland (2002) [43]Government of Ireland  (2012b) [44] UNICEF (2013), At a glance: Ireland, Statistics (database) [45] Ibid. [46] United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2013) [47] UNECE, op. cit. [48] Central Statistics Office (2013), Vital Statistics (chapter 4) [49] Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, ss.8-9 [50] Ibid. [51] Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, s.22 [52] Irish Constitution, s.40.3.3 [53] Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) (2014), Statistics (webpage) [54] HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Annual Report 2012 [55] Crisis Pregnancy Agency (Establishment) Order 2001 (S.I. No. 446 of 2001). [56] HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, National Strategy 2012-2016 [57] HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Annual Report 2012






Recent data does not indicate a son bias. Ireland had a male/female sex ratio at birth of 1.06 and for the working age population (15-64 years old) of 1.01.[59]


Pre-primary and primary gross enrolment ratios were almost identical for both sexes between 2008-12, as were net enrolment rates in secondary school over the same period.[60] Moreover, birth registration rates for the second quarter of 2013 were very similar among both sexes. According to Ireland’s Statbank, the birth registration rate was 7.6 for males and 7.2 for females during the second quarter of 2013.[61] No data on fertility preferences could be found, nor any sex disaggregated data on child household chores, child nutrition, and child immunisation.


 [59]CIA. (accessed 28/03/2014). [60] UNICEF (2013), At a glance: Ireland, Statistics (database) [61] Central Statistics Office (2014), StatBank Ireland, Births registered, “VSQ16: Births Registered Provisional by Sex, Quarter and Statistic” (metadata)



Concerning access to land and non-land assets, Ireland’s Married Women’s Status Act specifically recognises the capacity for married women to enter into contracts and to acquire, hold and dispose of “any property”, including land, “as if [they] were unmarried”.[62]Moreover, the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act[63] contains gender neutral provisions. No discriminatory practices towards women could be found.

As regards access to financial services, 2011 data from the World Bank reveals no gender gaps: 92.2% of women and 96% of men had an account in a formal institution; 28.3% of women and 30.5% of men had taken out a loan in the past year; 55.1% of women and 56.2% of men had a credit card; and more women (72.9%) than men (67.8%) had a debit card.[64]



Entrepreneurial activity remains male-dominated, however, with latest data indicating that 8.3% and 11.8% of men were respectively early-stage entrepreneurs and established owner managers in 2012, compared to 4% and 4.7% of women.[65]Aware of the untapped potential of female entrepreneurs, the government has sought to strengthen institutional frameworks to promote female entrepreneurship. In particular, the National Women’s Strategy for 2007-16 aims, inter alia, to support female entrepreneurs through various means, including “Start your own Business” courses, award schemes, enhanced availability of childcare to support women who work atypical hours as start-up entrepreneurs, and active participation of girls in school-level entrepreneurship programs.[66] In addition, the government allocated funding to support female entrepreneurship through the Equality for Women Measure 2008-13, which for instance helped foster innovation, growth ambitions and international focus among female entrepreneurs under the Going for Growth initiative.[67] More recently, the government launched a Competitive Feasibility Fund for Female Entrepreneurs in 2012, with an envelope of EUR 250 000.[68]



[62] Married Women’s Status Act 1957, s.2  [63] Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 [64] World Bank (2014), Global Financial Inclusion Database (database) [65] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor(GEM) (2012), [66]Government of Ireland (2007), National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016, (accessed on 16 April 2014) [67] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor(GEM) (2011), Entrepreneurship in Ireland 2011 [68] Enterprise Ireland (2014), Funding Supports & Programmes, Competitive Feasibility Fund for Female Entrepreneurs



 Women and men enjoy equal rights to access public space. Ireland’s Constitution guarantees, inter alia, freedom of expression (art.40), freedom of assembly (art.40), freedom of movement (art.40), and freedom or religion (art.44) for women and men alike. Moreover, women in Ireland can pass on citizenship to their children.[69]

Women’s collective action in Ireland is embodied by the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), an umbrella organisation with 160 members.[70] The NWCI works to expand the country’s women’s movement by convening and chairing women’s rights groups (namely the Women’s Human Rights Alliance (WHRA), the Women’s Committee of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Irish branch, and the National Observatory on Violence Against Women); empowering youth to advocate for women’s equality; supporting women’s rights campaigns; and by partnering with the National University of Ireland to provide training and professional development opportunities in gender equality. The NWCI also lobbies for women’s rights and gender equality issues at the European level through the European Women’s Lobby (EWL).[71]

Women are poorly represented in national political structures. Ireland ranks low at 24th, 22nd and 25th among EU28 for representation of women in national administration, national parliament and national government respectively and the latest figures show that this position remains unchanged. In 2013, women made up 15.7% of Parliament.[72]The Electoral Act was recently amended in 2012, however, to set a 30% quota for both sexes in political parties. Accordingly, political parties will lose 50% percent of state funding if they do not respect this quota, which is set to rise to 40% percent “within seven years from the date of the first election held in line with this new rule”.[73] Women are also underrepresented at the sub-national level, with less than 20%  of female local council members in 2011.[74]

As regards leadership positions more generally, women accounted for only 13% of senior ministers in 2013 (below the EU average of 27%);[75] and for respectively 25.9% and 11.9% of judges and ambassadors in 2011.[76] Moreover, women accounted for only 10.7% of large corporation board members in 2013, and only 32% of companies had at least one woman on their board in April 2013.[77]

The National Women’s Strategy contains a list of positive measures for women. Examples include the development of databases of women who might be considered for appointment to State Boards and to the boards of private sector companies; the establishment of a new target of 27%  female representation among Principal Officers in the civil service; and the requirement for political parties to develop action plans to increase their number of female candidates, and to publish gender disaggregated statistics on participation and representation.[78] Moreover the Equality for Women Measure 2008-13 allocated specific resources to “foster women as decision-makers”.



There is a significant gender gap in employment rates, particularly when there are have children in a household and a also persistent gender pay gap. There is no legislation on flexible working time. Some employers, mainly in the public sector, offer various forms of discretionary flexible work arrangements such as flexi-time, term-time working, career breaks and job sharing. Significant improvements in the entitlement to maternity leave have been introduced over the last decade. Maternity leave is paid to women for 26 weeks at 80% of earnings (subject to a minimum of EUR 217.80 and a maximum of EUR 232 per week)[79] and a further 16 weeks of unpaid leave can be taken.[80] A minimum of 2 weeks must be taken before the end of the week in which the baby is due. Parental Leave (18 weeks entitlement) is unpaid. There is no statutory provision for paternity leave, childcare leave, family leave or general leave for caring for older dependants.

Regarding workplace rights, it is prohibited for employers to discriminate on gender grounds,[81]and dismissals on the basis of pregnancy are only allowed in limited circumstances.[82] The National Women’s Strategy contains numerous measures aimed at, inter alia, increasing and promoting women’s participation in the labour force, reducing the gender pay gap, supporting female entrepreneurs, and optimising childcare services.[83]

According to latest UN data for 2013 there no gender inequalities in access to ICT in Ireland: 78% of women and men had used a computer and accessed Internet in the last three months, while 75% of women and men were weekly Internet users.[84]

Finally, there is no gender budgeting or auditing carried out in Ireland. The Equality Budgeting Campaign, a broad-based coalition of NGOs, trade unions and concerned individuals, is campaigning for the introduction of Equality Budgeting.[85]



[69] Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1986, s.6 [70] National Women’s Council of Ireland’s website [71] Ibid. [72] Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2014), Women in national parliaments [73] International IDEA, Stockholm University and Inter-Parliamentary Union (2013) [74] European Commission (2013) [75] Ibid. [76] UNECE, op. cit. [77] European Commission (2013) [78] Government of Ireland (2007), National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016 [79]Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, Sec. 6 [80]Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 [81] Employment Equality Act 1998, s.6(2) [82] Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, s.6(2)(f) [83] Government of Ireland (2007), National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016 [84] UNECE. [85]



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Very Low
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority During Marriage: 
Parental Authority After Divorce: 
Inheritance Rights For Widows: 
Inheritance Rights For Daughters: 
Not Applicable
Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women: 
Prevalence Of Domestic Violence: 
Laws Addressing Domestic Violence: 
Laws Addressing Rape: 
Laws Addressing Sexual Harassment: 
Female Genital Mutilation: 
Reproductive Autonomy: 
Missing Women: 
Fertility Preferences: 
Very Low
Secure Access To Land: 
Secure Access To Non-Land Assets: 
Access To Financial Services: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Quotas: 
Political Participation: