The National Women’s Council of Ireland was founded in 1973, and Women’s Aid has been providing domestic violence services since 1974. Yet here we are, in 2014, with one in five women as victims of domestic violence, with only one third the recommended refuge spaces for victims, and with no real effort to locate responses to violence against women within a gender equality framework.
Domestic violence strikes at the core of women’s inequality, and cannot be separated from the patriarchal culture, institutions and structures in which we live and work. Men’s violence against women is engrained in society to such an extent that women get sexually harassed in the street, rape culture prevails and we have yet to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention.
We live in a culture in society which allows domestic violence, rape and the murder of women by their partners and ex-partners to flourish. We are light years away from recognising and understanding the serious impact domestic violence has on the lives of women.
NWCI chair the Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women, an independent network of grassroots and national organisations that come together quarterly to monitor progress on violence against women in Ireland. In November 2013, we launched a document “Violence Against Women: An Issue of Gender”, highlighting how violence against women is rooted the gender roles and structures for women and men in our society
It is only by taking account of unequal power relations between women and men that service providers will be able to address different vulnerabilities experienced by different groups of women and men.
One only has to look at the recent hashtags #WhyIStayed and #BeenrapedNeverReported to show how prevalent the culture of male violence against women is, and what a devastating impact it has on the women who suffer this abuse, and their children who are abused too, or witness the abuse. The government needs to take meaningful action to address all forms of violence against women. In doing so it is critical to hear the voices of women and their experiences. The Istanbul Convention is a benchmark at international level, and Ireland must show its commitment to eradicating all forms of male violence against women by signing, ratifying and implementing the Convention as a matter of urgency. We need to see a real commitment to investing in domestic and sexual violence services, as well as greater criminal sanctions for male perpetrators.
There can be no real equality between women and men if women experience gender-based violence on this large-scale, and state agencies and institutions reinforce the patriarchal relations in our society.
For more information on the National Women's Council of Ireland visit www.nwci.ie