When Misogyny Is A Policy




A candlelit vigil in memory of Savita Halappanavar (top) and Julien Mercille

It’s Monday.

It’s 9.41am.

It’s Mercille on Monday at 9.41am.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

Last week, the Irish government got hammered three times because of the way it mistreats its citizens: by Amnesty International on abortion, by the Rape Crisis Network on funding cuts, and by the United Nations on a poor human rights record under austerity. We will have to organise and push back, because rights are not granted—they are won.

(1) First, Amnesty International released a thundering report on abortion, entitled “She is not a Criminal”. It says that Ireland’s approach to abortion is “deeply rooted in religious doctrine”.

Let’s start with this line that summarises it nicely: “The Irish state and religious institutions enforce harmful gender stereotypes and have institutionalized violence against women and girls”.

Or this one: “Ireland’s abortion law continues to criminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal or severe foetal impairment, perpetuating the suffering of survivors of sexual violence and of women and their partners already grappling with a devastating loss”.

And a last one: “The long history of the criminalisation of abortion in Ireland is part of a broader social and political context in which the state and religious institutions have subjected women and girls to strict, punitive social controls around their sexuality”.

The report underlines that human rights bodies worldwide have repeatedly maintained that “restrictive laws on abortion, including those that exist in Ireland, violate women’s and girls’ rights to life, health, privacy, non-discrimination and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment”.

Ireland’s record is atrocious: it “has long had one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws” and has refused to reform its laws despite repeated criticisms from numerous human rights bodies.

The recent reform of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 has brought no significant change. In fact, in the first case of denial of a lawful abortion under the new rules (the Ms. Y case), this is what happened: “health care providers coerced a young, suicidal woman, pregnant as a result of rape, who qualified for a lawful abortion on suicide grounds, to continue with her pregnancy to viability and then deliver by caesarean section”.

There is thus a lot of room for improvement on this front.

(2) Secondly, Tusla, the State’s Child and Family Agency, decided to end funding for the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI), which is the umbrella body for the country’s 16 rape crisis centres. Last year, they received 18,000 calls, texts and emails and supported 1,900 people through counseling. The cut amounts to €250,000—70% of RCNI’s income.

This comes on top of significant cuts to rape crisis centres around the country since 2008 when austerity started. For example, the annual budget of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was cut by €300,000, about 30% of its budget.

Other Centres have been targeted in a similar fashion. Last year, two Rape Crisis Centres (in Clare and Tipperary) even had to close temporarily because of government cuts to their funding.

Those who believe that cutting services to rape victims will “increase Ireland’s economic competitiveness” and will “reassure the global markets” probably believe anything.

A more sensible explanation was provided by the Irish Examiner: it called the cuts “regressive, dangerous and almost a tacit expression of misogyny”. The cuts say to “rape or abuse victims that this service, one they can turn to in a moment of great crisis, is not regarded as important, much less essential”. It noted that “This society’s record in supporting victims of rape, abuse or crime is not enviable”.

(3) Thirdly, the United Nations examined Ireland’s compliance with its international obligations with respect to housing, education, health, non-discrimination and other issues.

Ireland got hammered again. The UN said a referendum on abortion must be held to protect the rights of girls and women. It also said that the division between Church and State seems “to be a little fuzzy” in this country.

It questioned discrimination in schools against disabled children, non-Christians and Travellers, given that schools are dominated by the Catholic Church.

The effects of austerity were also noted. In the words of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the burden of austerity measures “has fallen disproportionately on those least able to bear its impacts”. In other words, the most vulnerable have been targeted the most.

There are also concerns about “Direct Provision centres for asylum seekers, nursing homes for older people, day and residential services for persons with intellectual disabilities and care services for children—many of which are run on a for-profit basis”.

Many other examples could be added, but it is clear that the government is not in the business of caring about Irish citizens.

The trap in which we must not fall is to sit back and hope that the government will reflect on its actions, recognise its mistakes, and then choose to rectify the situation. Politicians know perfectly well what is going on—they are the ones doing it! In any case, it’s rather obvious that closing a rape crisis centre will affect rape victims. Or that cutting government services will affect those who depend on them.

Therefore, the point is not to “talk to power” and explain to the government that what it is doing is wrong. Popular pressure needs to force political leaders to change what they do. Because rights are won through social action. They are not granted by the powerful out of generosity.

@JulienMercille is lecturer at UCD and the author of The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland (2015, Routledge). His new book, Europe’s Treasure Ireland (Palgrave), will be out in July 2015.

31 thoughts on “When Misogyny Is A Policy

  1. Starina

    And the primary targets of mistreatment for 1 and 2 are women. I don’t know how we can see systematic disregard for women again and again and still deny that it’s happening.

    Go on, trolls. What’s your retort?

    1. Sinabhfuil

      Getting the popcorn now, and holding my bingo card: whining, brigade, feminazis…

  2. Merci

    “It questioned discrimination in schools against disabled children, non-Christians and Travellers, given that schools are dominated by the Catholic Church.”

    Rather misleading statement, suggestive that the report accuses the Catholic Church of discriminating against Travellers and disabled children. A cursory glance at report no doubt would suggest otherwise. Julien, Julien, ou est la verite???

      1. Merci

        Mercille promotes himself as the record of truth, yet rather “fuzzy ” on fact and data. This is a misleading statement , the first of many made by the dear Dr.

      1. Merci

        It is shabby, as it merely qualifies as a recording of pub chitter chatter, lack of analysis, a dumbed downed statement of the obvious, and quelle surprise misinterpretation of fact. ( not to mention badly written).

          1. Merci

            just mentioned it, no observation made by UN linking discrimination of travellers and disabled children with Catholic Church. Unless Mercille of course was privy to that which was not reported.

          2. Merci

            Azzouz Kerdoun, from Algeria, one of several members who asked about “discrimination” in schools against non-Christian, Traveller and disabled children, said: “Irish schools seem to be dominated by the Catholic Church. What are your plans to deal with discrimination in education? Is the Government working to speed up its actions to set up secular schools?”

  3. Eamonn Clancy

    It lost me at Amnesty. Been chugged way to many times to take them seriously anymore.

      1. tony

        Why did they spend all that money on promoting same sex marriage and not a cent on equal pay for women? Surely thats a bigger inequality?

      2. Ken Kavanagh

        Both fantastic contributory comments, one neutral and one acidic. Congratulations, give yourself a pat on the back.

  4. pardon

    “Those who believe that cutting services to rape victims will “increase Ireland’s economic competitiveness” and will “reassure the global markets” probably believe anything”

    Tabloid analysis or academia? Let BS decide

    1. dereviled

      Were cuts to public service funding part of the IMF deal? I only know what I read in the papers.

  5. Dubloony

    Like it or not (and I don’t) the 8th amendment was voted in by the people.
    Looking back, the utter spinelessness of politicians, the subservience of women at the time is truly stunning.
    And its not that long ago, many of those people are still about.

  6. Lorcan Nagle

    The Abortion Rights Campaign are having an open meeting tonight in the Teacher’s Club at 7, if anyone is interested in coming along and seeing what they can do to help further women’s rights in this country.

    1. Dubloony

      There’s a huge amount that could be done before the 8th is put to referendum again:
      – cost of childcare, continuing eucation
      – Specific crime of domestic violence if a woman is pregnant
      – Free contraception for 18-25yr olds, same demographic that seeks out most abortions in the first, place.
      – Harassment of hospital staff / patients in the guise of “street counselling” as seen in US
      – Find ways of surveying those who have had abortions. What are the exact medical reasons, could these be addressed e.g. folic acid more widely available. The social reasons, could these be addressed by greater awareness of attitudes and reactions of men /families when a woman is unexpectedly pregnant. And so on.

      There’s very little research done in this country about this whole area.

      1. Small Wonder

        Why does that have to be done before the 8th is put to referendum? Women are leaving this country every day. Now is good.

        1. Dubloony

          That’s what I meant, sorry if its not clear.
          Main point is, that there are reasons why women choose this option. Many are medical, but a lot is social/emotional. How about we deal with that in a mature way.

      2. Lorcan Nagle

        Given this was in reply to me, I’ll say that some of what you’ve mentioned falls within ARC’s remit, and some of it doesn’t. If you’d like to help us with that please come along tonight. ARC is a highly democratic organisation with a minimum of hierarchy, and we’re always looking for good peopel to help out.

          1. Lorcan Nagle

            Hi fluffy,

            sorry you didn’t hear about it in time, I’ll check and see if there’s anything we can do to get the info out sooner. The open meeting next month is on the 20th of July, and I’ll let you know ASAP where it’s going to be.

  7. jen

    The Catholic Church should NOT be running schools. Schools should be secular, multicultural and liberal. Religious education is the responsiblility of families and the churches themselves (Sunday schools). Also, why don’t they take money from the water rate taxes and use that to refund rape crisis centres? Irish people are taxed to the hilt! Why are we not getting the services we pay for???

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