Thu, Jan 20, 2022
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Neasa speaking on the issue of eradicating gender violence.
Go raibh maith agat, Cathaoirleach.
I welcome the debate around this issue and the statements of our Ministers on the changes in direction that may be undertaken as regards gender-based violence in 2022. It was important to include an audit of Department actions on this issue in the Programme for Government. I know how seriously the Minister O’Gorman and Minister McEntee took that work and I absolutely can see the benefit of a new direction.
However, in that context, I would like to draw attention to the many migrant women who have suffered gender-based violence or have been victims of femicide. If we are to move to a more justice-based model on gender-based violence, we should make sure we do not lose the human rights aspect and focus. Migrant women are over-represented in the statistics on femicide.
The State has been warned that the current initiatives around gender-based violence are failing to reach migrant women and that their immigration status can sometimes be used as a tool of control. It can lock them into violent situations. Any State strategy on this must recognise the particular vulnerability of migrant women if it is to succeed in stopping femicide and gender-based violence in Ireland. Otherwise some women will continue to be left behind.
I really want the experience of Urantsetseg Tserendorj to be mentioned on the official report of the Dáil today. She was a mother of two from my own constituency. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of her life being taken from her. She died a horrific death last year, just one month before Sarah Everard, whose name the whole world learned, died in London. Urantsetseg Tserendorj was a cleaner. She was returning from work. She was stabbed in IFSC. Her family had to travel from Mongolia during a pandemic to say goodbye to her. What her family has endured this year is really horrific.
That story is also part of our nation’s understanding of gender-based violence. If we are to proceed now with a renewed commitment to this area, I ask for the following issues to be included and a particular focus placed on vulnerable women. Migrant women must be central to any strategy as they are particularly vulnerable. Migrant women have the right to be safe.
Sex workers need to be included in any strategy. We cannot afford to continue with any ideas of good or bad victims of violence based on misogynistic ideas of morality around how women should behave or what is acceptable to us. Sex workers have the right to be safe too.
Women, girls and all minorities should be supported to reclaim their streets and freedoms. It is simply not good enough that local authorities, public transport companies etc. expect women to curtail their freedoms and movements to protect themselves instead of providing adequate lighting and security and active and passive surveillance in order to ensure that public spaces, public facilities, public parks and public transport are safe for everyone at all times. We are not a minority; women are the public.
While I hope to have many more debates in this House on the issue of eradicating gender violence, I hope it is never again in the circumstances in which we find ourselves this week.