Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law. Most persons convicted received prison sentences of five to 12 years. According to the most recent report of director of public prosecution, in 2014 there were 82 prosecutions for sexual offenses, with an 89 percent conviction rate. The law criminalizes domestic violence. It authorizes prosecution of a violent family member and provides victims with “safety orders,” which prohibit a person from engaging in violent actions or threats, and “barring orders,” (restraining order) which prohibit an offender from entering the family home for up to three years. Anyone found guilty of violating a barring or protection order may receive a fine of up to 4,000 euros ($4,400), a prison sentence of 12 months, or both. The law covers cohabiting couples, including same-sex couples and parents with a child in common, but not individuals in intimate relationships who have not cohabited. Advocates criticized the government for the lengthy waiting periods necessary to obtain barring orders, including interim barring orders.
The government permitted domestic violence to be included among factors affecting child custody decisions.
The November 2015 EU Victims Directive commits the government to undertake key actions but was pending formal enactment into law. Criminal justice agencies began providing some services to victims to comply with the directive.
On January 20, Deputy Prime Minister (Tanaiste) and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald initiated the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual, and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021, an action plan that focuses on prevention of violence, services to victims, and data gathering. In November the deputy prime minister and the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual, and Gender-Based Violence launched the national awareness campaign “What would you do?” The awareness campaign was a part of the second national strategy, and the government secured 950,000 euros ($1,006,000) to fund the campaign due to run from 2016 to 2021 to inform and change attitudes and educate the public about domestic violence.
Lack of data made it difficult to analyze the scale of domestic abuse and sexual violence in the country. In a 2014 report, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights estimated that 26 percent of Irish women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. According to the NGO Safe Ireland, domestic violence support services answered 48,888 helpline calls in 2014.
A 2014 Garda Inspectorate review found that police did not always correctly record domestic violence cases. While the police have a domestic violence policy in place, there was little evidence that it was effectively implemented. The inspectorate also found an inconsistent approach to dealing with victims, with some Garda displaying negative attitudes towards domestic violence by referring to calls as “problematic, time consuming, and a waste of resources.” In 2015 the Garda commissioner established the Garda National Protective Services Bureau with specially trained officers to deal with sex crimes, domestic violence, and trafficking in persons who were also to provide guidance and assistance to police throughout the country.
NGOs expressed continued concern that funding levels, which had been cut during austerity and not fully restored, would limit support services for victims of family violence. They were also concerned about the lack of a mechanism to provide safe living quarters for migrant women experiencing domestic violence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls. The maximum penalty for performing FGM/C in the country or taking a girl to another country to undergo the procedure is a fine of up to 10,000 euros ($11,000), imprisonment for up to 14 years, or both. During the year Garda investigated a possible case of FGM of a young girl and arrested a man in Dublin for questioning. Police and other government authorities, as well as NGOs, were on heightened alert during school holidays. Teachers began receiving training in detecting signs that a child was in danger of FGM/C and were legally obligated to report such instances to police or child protection services.
Sexual Harassment: The law obliges employers to prevent sexual harassment and prohibits employers from dismissing an employee for making a complaint of sexual harassment. Authorities effectively enforced the law when sexual harassment was reported. The penalties can include an order requiring equal treatment in the future, as well as compensation for the victim up to a maximum of two years’ pay or 40,000 euros ($44,000), whichever was greater. The law prohibits harassment and sexual harassment not only in employment but also in the supply of, and access to, goods and services.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The constitution gives equal status to the mother and the unborn child. In 2013 the country enacted the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act to permit abortion in limited circumstances such as real and substantive risk to the life of the pregnant women. Some international and national organizations raised concerns about the lack of legal and medical clarity in implementing the act. Under the act procuring or assisting with an abortion in the country is a criminal offense with a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment, although the statute had not been used. The IHREC highlighted concerns that the law disproportionately penalizes poor women, female asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants because they were unable to travel abroad to obtain an abortion. The Irish Family Planning Association expressed concerns with barriers stemming from fear of prosecution, which could decrease access to emergency health care services to deal with complications arising from abortions.
In June the UN Human Rights Committee found that a woman who had to choose between carrying a fatally ill fetus to term or seeking an abortion abroad was subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment as a result of the country’s legal prohibitions on abortion.
Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men. Inequalities in pay and promotions, although prohibited by law, persisted in both the public and private sectors.