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”.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.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.
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:
“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”.
The Domestic Violence Act empowers Irish courts to issue safety and barring orders against perpetrators of domestic violence.
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.
Safety orders can be issued for a period of up to five years while barring orders can last up to three years.
A person who contravenes a safety or barring order is liable to a fine or a prison sentence of up to one year.
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.
There is no available data on the percentage of women who agree that wife beating is justified under certain circumstances.
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.
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.
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.
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.
is criminalised under the Criminal law (Rape) (Amendment) Act and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
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”.
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
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.
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.
Rape Crisis Centres (RCCs) and a national 24 hour helpline also provide counseling and support to victims.
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.
Although there is no specific law on sexual harassment
, it is prohibited under the Employment Equality Act and the Equal Status Act.
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.
The latter defines sexual harassment in relation to access to good and services in the same terms.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Latest UN figures also indicate neonatal and infant mortality rates of respectively 2 and 3 deaths per 1 000 births in 2012.
Moreover, 61% of mothers aged 15-49 reportedly used some form of modern contraception in 2012,
and the mean age at first birth has risen from 25 in 1980
to 30 in 2012.
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.
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.
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.
Ireland’s Constitution guarantees the freedom for pregnant women to travel outside of Ireland to seek abortion services,
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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 “www.B4udecide.ie” 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.
 Government of Ireland (2010), National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014.  Government of Ireland (2012a)  Irish Observatory on Violence against Women (2013)  HSE (2010), http://www.tusla.ie/uploads/content /Domestic_HSE_Policy_on_Domestic,_Sexual_and_Gender_Based_Violence.pdf (accessed on 16 April 2014)  HSE (2010),  Domestic Violence Act 1996, ss.2-3  Ibid.  Ibid.  Domestic Violence Act 1996, s.17  Ibid., s.18  United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2013).  European Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014)  SAFE Ireland 2012  NWCI 2012  Government of Ireland (2012)  Criminal law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, s.4  Central Statistics Office (2012), “CJA01: Recorded Crime Offences (Number) by Type of Offence and Year”  Health Services Executive (HSE) website, Sexual Assault Treatment Unit Ibid.  The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre website  Rape Crisis Network Ireland, (2013). Employment Equality Act 1998; Equal Status Act 2000  Employment Equality Act 1998, s.23(3)  Equal Status Act 2000, s.11(5)  Employment Equality Act 1998, s.100(1)  UNICEF (2013), Childinfo – Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women (database)  Akidwa.ie  SAVI Sexual Abuse and Violent Crime in Ireland (2002) Government of Ireland (2012b)  UNICEF (2013), At a glance: Ireland, Statistics (database)  Ibid.  United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2013)  UNECE, op. cit.  Central Statistics Office (2013), Vital Statistics (chapter 4)  Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, ss.8-9  Ibid.  Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, s.22  Irish Constitution, s.40.3.3  Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) (2014), Statistics (webpage)  HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Annual Report 2012  Crisis Pregnancy Agency (Establishment) Order 2001 (S.I. No. 446 of 2001).  HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, National Strategy 2012-2016  HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Annual Report 2012