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Trans Rights and Healthcare are on a Precipice

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This piece comes from an anonymous contributor, a comrade of the writers of Feminist Ire, speaking out at a crisis point in trans healthcare in Ireland from the perspective of a trans woman. 

I’m currently writing with feelings of anger, sadness and frustration at two powerful elements within Irish society that seem intent on further damaging the health and well being as well as perpetuating the overwhelming stigmatisation of trans people in this country. When we peel back the surface and uncover the plight of Trans people this ultimately and all too often reveals itself in violence, disenfranchisement, poverty, rape, self harm and suicide. It’s often highlighted in discussion around trans topics, the terrible statistics of self harm and suicide when it comes to the trans community for example. To reference some headline figures a study by the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland in 2012 shows that 78% of trans people have had thoughts of suicide, 40% have attempted and 6% have attempted five or more times! Self harm is not much better with 44% of trans people reporting that they have self harmed at some stage in their lives with 6% actively currently self harming. Unfortunately this very plight of trans people which should be an impetus to drastically improve the standards of care for a vulnerable and suffering minority is often used as a stick to beat us with.

These heartbreaking statistics are a reflection of a wider societal issue, that of the systematic oppression of trans minorities where a binarist, cisnormative, patriarchal society violently attacks in both it’s messaging, actions and structures, every aspect of trans people’s public and private lives as we fight to exist openly and authentically and navigate within it. The statistics quoted above are a snapshot taken three years before marriage equality and legal gender recognition had passed and at an earlier stage in a sizemic cultural shift currently taking place on this island, which has seen a new generation of progressive and radicalised citizens and residents pushing through sweeping social reforms and resisting privatisation through grassroots activism in a country still dogged by it’s colonial and theocratic past. Indeed this aspect of Irish culture and the potential it envokes in shaping our society in the near future makes this Island a pretty good place to be trans comparatively, albeit coming from a very low base. The presence of a strong grassroots, intersectional and women led network of activists has helped to stave off much or the recindance of trans rights that can be seen happening within our two giant anglophile neighbours. To our left we have bathroom ‘debates’ and the dismantling of legal protections along with scores of murdered trans people, excused through panic defense. To our right we have the potential of a depathologised legal recognition for trans and intersex people being attacked, alongside numerous cases of trans women sent to their deaths in male prisons.

However despite this somewhat favourable environment, there remains two large and prescient threats to the progress of trans liberation in Ireland. Namely, a couple of chiefs based within one hospital in south Dublin who seem intent on limiting access to health-care and perpetuating an outmoded and dangerous conservative pathological ideology, discouraging people from transitioning where possible, refusing to listen to the increasingly angry and desperate voices of the trans community, refusing to implement international best practice when it comes to trans health care, criticizing us for demanding such health-care and proportioning partial blame on the healthcare demands of the trans community for the regrets of a small number of detransitioners all the while conflating their situation with the desperate mental health situation alluded to above. Thier prejucicial elitist practices are resultingly working to conserve the violent patriarchal transmysogonist aspects of a society that kills us and in order to do this these dinosaurs are allying themselves with traditional media to spread this destructive message and shore up their status as Ireland’s premier gatekeepers. This is a high risk strategy and very dangerous to the health and wellbeing of trans people, the same people they proport to care for.

The media narrative in Ireland in relation to trans people is currently being pulled in two destructive and harmful directions. On the one side there is an old school and elitist club, most prominent within the broadcast and ‘newspaper of record’ realms that projects a veneer of liberalism, but in reality paints over the cracks of a declining conservative, ignorant and voyeuristic mindset influenced by the ‘medical oddity’ genre of pseudo scientific transexual documentaries of the 90s to early 00s emanating from either side of the pond. The impact of this club’s influence can partially be evidenced in the cautious language reflected in the recent together for yes campaign which amongst other things erased the effect that the eighth ammendment had on trans and intersex people in much of its messaging in the penultimate weeks of the official referrendum campaign.

While many trans people who worked hard to secure a yes outcome and their grassroots allies were prepared to begrudgingly go along with this messaging to secure a victory by not actively speaking out, a hurt and resentment remains that has spilled out in potentially destructive ways. A statement from anonymous members of the trans community demanded an apology from together for yes literally hours after the results were declared. This resulted in an unintentional indirect attack on the grassroots, who are made up of pragmatic trans people and their allies and threw trans women and femmes to the TERFs. The downplaying of the intersection of trans and intersex people in relation to the 8th has also resulted in gendered language in the headings of the prospective legislation which, if not rectified could potentially leave trans and intersex people with uteruses still unable to access abortion healthcare in Ireland. Thankfully there seems a concensus around rectifying this situation but this should never have arisen in the first place.

On the other side there is a red top brigade that on the one hand is perfectly content to sensationalize, hypersexualize and dehumanise the trans experience to titillate and incense their diminishing white cis-hetero audience. They are in turn being pushed into even more dangerous territory by their sister publications in the UK that are largely owned by an increasingly centralised right wing conservative and billionaire class, who by co-opting the language of feminism and fueled by evangelicals are giving voice to their willing lackeys in the form of a loud minority of middle class TERFs who are ramping up their attacks on trans people. This tactic compliments their agenda of dividing people into competing groups and hierarchies to distract from intensifying inequality, debt and economic stagnation caused by their economic plunder. Although making inroads into online spaces where increasingly their once captive audiences have deserted to, their impact on these realms on the mindset of people living in Ireland remains limited. That being said it’s this cohort of nasties that have the potential to derail impending legislation that should increase the ease of legal transition for trans people in Ireland and regognise non binary and intersex identites. Hopefully the former cloak offered by the marriage equality results and resulting legislation while the original gender recognition bill was passed will again be offered by the success of the repeal campaign.

The results of this unholy alliance between the chiefs and the dieing media, aside from the problems stated above is that healthcare in Ireland for trans people is in a dangerous and delicate impass. The chiefs want to model the recent and welcome investment in trans healthcare in their own image, to preserve the status quo and bolster their own professions albeit with shorter waiting times. Trans people as individuals are a small disparate and oppressed minority with limited voice, resources and energy fighting for a depathologised and informed consent model that is on demand and without apology. We are at the mercy of the chiefs despite a favourable cultural environment, despite support from politicians, and even tacid support from the health service.

What we’ve currently been able to muster in terms of advocating for health care is a small and problematic campaigning group centered around inexperienced trans-masc indivituals who are currently on the outside of the health system. They speak out loudly and attempt mass protests for healthcare. They have uncovered the sinister ideology begind the masks of the chiefs but they tone police their own community members who wish to speak out at protests, disengage with non-binary ‘trouble makers’ online and sit in meetings with the likes of Joan Burton and celebrate it. Of special note however is the emergence of Radical Queers Resist, a broader queer alliance who came to light during the refferendum campaign by largely nullifying the effects of the most grotesque forced-birther group in the form of the ICBR. This group offers the potential of offering an effective avenue for the campaigning elements of the trans liberation movement going forward.

Meanwhile non profit organisations working largely within the system with limited clout, work desperately behind the scenes despite stretched resources and limited funding pools. They are, as the system dictates heavily funded by the very organisations they are advocating towards. They can not speak out for fear that the chiefs in a strop, stop treating half of the countrys trans patients within the health system overnight. The only solution is the mobilisation of the existing wider grassroots movement of allies. This has the potential to effect change in our favour but it must be built upon a greater understanding of our predicament and the sharing of experience and resources. This can be realised through the amplification of our voices through the correct use of it’s inherant privelege.

In the meantime waiting lists continue to lenghten causing massive mental strife. Trans people continue to be subjected to invasive and unnecessary psychological and psychiatric assessment based on outmoded and offensive criteria, being actively discouraged in their hormonal and medical transitions and twarted at every stage. Non-binary people have to lie and pretend not to exist in order to access the same treatment as their binary counterparts, access to counselling and non-patholigising forms of mental health care is sparse to non existant albeit linked with the wider defunding of mental health. Recieving hormone replacement therapy for already transitioned individuals from GPs on a parity with their cisgender counterperts is almost impossible. Autistic people and those with other and often linked mental health problems such as PTSD are not deemed to be ‘true transgender’, expensive treatments deemed cosmetic because they don’t conform to the male gaze of medical practitioners rather than seen as alleviating the distress of dysphoria remain out of reach and patients are forced to travel abroad for intensive operations with limited aftercare and financial support. The potential outcomes of this impasse will have a greater threat to the lives of trans people than the unfortunate decisions and regrets of a minority of detransitioners currently being used as false equivalencies to preserve the status of the chiefs.

 

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Respect motherhood. Vote Yes.

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​Some of my best friends are mothers. I have to admit, I don’t envy them. I know they love their children, that they bring a lot of joy into their lives. I know if I had children I would feel that way too. But I also know that they had to give up a lot to become mothers, more than I would ever be happy to give up.

“Happy” is the wrong word, actually, because it seems that most of my friends are anything but happy about the price they’ve paid for motherhood. If anything, the ones who are co-parenting (at least with a man) are angrier about this than the single mams, because the fathers always promise more than they deliver. I listen as they share their frustration and resentment at how he still assumes the primary parenting and household duties to be hers; still feels entitled to aspects of his pre-parenthood life that she has long since resigned to the dustbin of her own past; expects praise and gratitude and a Dad of the Century award when he remembers to “help out”.

Added to this are the negative impacts that motherhood has had on her prospects for employment or promotion. The resentment she senses from female co-workers without children, who she suspects of seeing her reduced hours and frequent absences as a kind of special treatment. The barely concealed disdain from male co-workers, who she thinks see these things as evidence of lack of commitment to the job. Some of these male co-workers have children themselves, of course, but rarely have to prioritise their children over their work. That’s what their wives are for.

Then, too, there are the physical effects of childbirth [CN: obstetric trauma]. There’s a lot more of these than you probably know if you’ve never had children yourself, and as far as I can tell, none of them are good. Stretch marks, caesarean scars, vaginal laxity, hair loss, haemorrhagic periods, urinary incontinence – these are just the more common ones, the ones you can look forward to if you have a normal birth. If you’re one of the lucky ones. If you’re not, you could find yourself with a third or fourth degree perineal tear, pelvic organ prolapse, rectovaginal fistula, faecal incontinence, or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction which, in particularly bad cases, leads to permanent reliance on mobility aids. Did you know spontaneous symphysiotomy is a thing? Neither did I, until I met a woman who had one.

If these injuries themselves are not lifelong (and many are), the psychological effects of them usually will be – and not just on the woman. They’ve destroyed marriages. They’ve also complicated mothers’ relationships with their children. One woman I know told me of her lifelong sense of guilt for not being able to bond with her baby properly – she was so injured by his birth that she couldn’t hold him. Other women speak of feeling some resentment towards the child themselves. They say this hesitantly, and often with enormous shame; aren’t they supposed to think “a healthy baby is all that matters”? Then they always feel the need to add the disclaimer that they love their child and don’t wish they hadn’t had it, they just wish things had gone differently. No doubt many of them mean this, but we’ll never know how many don’t. The mother who wishes she’d never had children is the one voice that is completely silent in the Repeal debate, just as she is everywhere else.

And then of course there are the women whom childbirth actually kills. Nowadays (though this wasn’t always the case) it’s usually medical negligence that’s to blame, but the outcome for the woman is the same. Ireland may be a relatively safe place to have a baby but that doesn’t change the fact that every year, a number of women die in our maternity hospitals – nor the fact that every woman who brings a pregnancy to term takes the risk of becoming one of those statistics.

This is what listening to women who are mothers has taught me: Motherhood is risky. Motherhood is difficult. Motherhood is sometimes life-threatening. It is always life-changing. Most of these changes are profound, though few are recognised as such, especially the bad ones.

When women have abortions for “social” reasons, when Yes campaigners call for legalisation without restriction as to reason, it is not, as the No campaign claims, because we take abortion “lightly”. It’s because we take motherhood seriously. We understand what it entails, and know that it should never be forced on someone who isn’t prepared to take it on. When No campaigners portray motherhood as no more than a minor inconvenience – or, worse yet, as a suitable penalty for “mis”behaviour – they belittle every woman who has ever sacrificed an important part of her life in order to have a child.

My own mother was already a mother when she had me. She knew it was no picnic. She held an MSc which wasn’t put to use again for many years after my siblings and I were born. She could have had a legal abortion in the place where we were living. Of course, I am grateful she didn’t. But I am also thankful for her that she had the choice. Done under duress, I can’t imagine how much harder her job would have been.

For all that Irish society purports to revere motherhood, the problem is we don’t really respect it.  The myriad of ways that that needs to change are, for the most part, a subject for another blog post (I’ll just leave “proper remuneration” here for now). But we can take a big step very quickly by taking compulsory motherhood out of our Constitution – recognising it as too important a role to impose on the unready or unwilling.

Respect motherhood. Vote Repeal.

Open letter to Judge McMahon on #repealthe8th

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A reply to this letter to the Irish Times last week. The IT has not published it, so we are happy to do so.

A Chara,

The hypocrisy of former Justice Bryan McMahon (‘The Eighth Amendment’, Letters, May 4th) in calling for the retention of the 8th Amendment cannot go unremarked. McMahon’s strong urging of a ‘No’ vote suggests that he has forgotten the recommendations of the working group on Direct Provision that he presided over just a few years ago that urged quite the opposite. The McMahon report “strongly urges” that arrangements be made to enable women in Direct Provision experiencing crisis pregnancies to access proper supports including provisions for travel abroad, presumably to access abortion services. The McMahon report is very clear on this. It recommends “that a review by the relevant organisations of services for persons in the system experiencing a crisis pregnancy be undertaken immediately with a view to a protocol being agreed to guide State agencies and NGOs supporting such persons. Particular attention should be paid to addressing the needs of the individual in the context of the legislative framework. Issues relating to travel documents, financial assistance, confidentiality, and access to information and support services should be addressed.”

The working group on Direct Provision and the McMahon report can be criticised on many fronts, but on this front – the need to address the terrible circumstances faced by women experiencing crisis pregnancies in Direct Provision – the report is on the right track. It is clear that horrors of the sort inflicted on Ms Y can only be addressed by removing the 8th Amendment from the constitution and making sure that ALL women and pregnant people can access the supports that they need in this country. As groups such as AIMS Ireland and MERJ – Migrant and Ethnic Minorities for Reproductive Justice have shown us through research and personal testimony, this extends beyond abortion access to the whole issue of reproductive services and health care for migrant and ethnic minority women in this state. The women who have been most affected by the 8th Amendment – the women who have died because of the 8th Amendment and the disregard for the lives of women and mothers that it has embedded in our constitution – are disproportionately migrant women. Migrant women make up 25% of pregnant people in Ireland, but account for a shocking 40% of maternal deaths. Former Justice McMahon himself is very much aware of these facts and of the terrible circumstances that can face migrant and asylum-seeking women and girls. It is to his great discredit that he has chosen to ignore this evidence and awareness in his cruel and hypocritical call for the retention of this most cruel and hypocritical aspect of this state’s constitution.

Yours, etc,

Anti-Racism Network Ireland

AIMS Ireland

Migrants and Ethnic-minorities for Reproductive Justice (MERJ)

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI)

Let’s talk about sex

Let’s talk about sex

Guest Post by Emma C, Belfast Feminist Network

If this was a fluffy opinion piece for a Sunday supplement, I might make some sideways jokes about 5 minutes of pleasure, or someone’s turn to go ‘downstairs’ as a way of making light about this intimate, messy, universal experience. It’s everywhere, in ads, all of our films, television, books, plays, music. We let our culture mull it over but with little nuance. Yet we never really seem to be able to actually talk about it. For real.

We are in the midst of a wave of reignited feminism and its predicted backlash. We see every day in articles from across the world, the endless tales of rape, violence, maternal deaths, lack of access to safe abortions, persecution of sex workers and LGBTQ+ people. I’m utterly convinced that our inability to properly address sex; what it is, what it’s for, how it feels, when it works, when it doesn’t, what its value is, has kept us behind this hurdle of inequality.

Locally, we have been dealing with our very own Northern Ireland flavoured version of this worldwide phenomenon. A recent rape trial, abuse scandals, the lack of respect for LGBT people sex workers and women, all becomes fomented in policy and has maintained barriers to healthcare, equality and respect.

metoo

Real-talking about sex has to begin. Real sex, not biology-book sex, not biblical sex, not porn sex, but real actual sex that happens between real actual humans. Most of us have an innate drive to seek sexual pleasure and some of us are more successful in that search than others. Sex is one the issues at the crux of gender and sexuality.

Imagine you are a 12-year-old girl walking home from school in your uniform, you have just begun to develop breasts. Your hormones are beginning to go haywire, meaning your emotions are everywhere and the world seems bigger and more confusing, even though adults are beginning to make more sense. Now imagine that as you are walking home, car horns beep at you regularly, when you turn to look to see who they are honking at and realise that it’s you, you see men the same age as your father and you blush a deep red as you’re not quite sure how to react. Then imagine that with every passing few months there are more comments in the street, from young men hanging around in groups, from waiters, from family friends, even from school teachers, about your slowly changing appearance.

This is the beginning of the onslaught. This unwelcome and unwarranted attention is never spoken about to the young people that experience it. This is when men, and the women, trans people and gay men that they objectify begin to learn about consent. We are being taught from a young age that it is okay to be publicly sexualised, by men; older men, younger men, men in positions of power, strangers and there is really nothing we can do about it.

Many of us will have seen the declarations from various pious lampposts around this wee country that, “ THE WAGES OF SIN ARE DEATH”, yet we know from our national stance on abortion, access to contraception, and sex work that actually if the so-called sin is a sexual one between a ‘straight’ man and another person, it’s the other person who has to bear the brunt of that particular exchange.

Consensual sex is categorically not a sin. Well, except if you are a woman (and trans person and gay man and sex worker). Then of course it is a sin. You are a slut, unlike the man, who will probably be a legend (to himself), we all know this, we understand this paradox and yet we all maintain it, despite the harm it causes. Street harassment is the thin end of the wedge of our rape culture. RAPE CULTURE, a description that so many baulk at, yet we live in a society where somehow a woman should automatically be embarrassed about having a threesome and a man can be glorified amongst his mates. According to solicitors, the shame of a threesome could lead a young woman to take a lengthy and unnecessary court case against someone to save face… whereas leaving someone crying hysterically and bleeding internally after a sexual encounter is perfectly acceptable. A top tip for any man planning a threesome: if someone starts bleeding, best to call it a day, at the very least you aren’t doing it right and at the worst you might be raping someone.
We know that what a person wears, drinks, eats, how they get home, and what previous sexual history they have should have absolutely zero to do with whether or not they get raped, yet on and on we see victim blaming from legal experts, from prurient press, from anyone quick to judge with access to a social media account.

Expecting everyone who is not a straight cis man to pay for the sin of sex is why abortion is such a controversial topic as well. It’s got little to do with little cute babies and everything to do with women and pregnant people facing the consequences. “She should have kept her legs shut” “She should have to take responsibility for her mistake” “She should have thought about that before whoring around” – all things that are frequently said in some shape or form – it’s abortion’s own form of blaming, with a human to look after for the rest of your life as punishment. This is despite the overwhelming majority of single parents being women, it’s despite the overwhelming majority of contraception and birth control being aimed at women and it’s despite the fact that sexual assault and rape are so common that they are endemic, and yet we don’t even get off the hook for that one, as apparently our bodies don’t even deserve freedom from someone else’s crime (if they are a man).

Whenever the onslaught of sexualisation begins, it teaches us – women, queer and trans folk, that our boundaries are unimportant. It undermines our trust as to everyone’s intentions, and most importantly it undermines our ability to trust our own instinct. Setting boundaries is an important life skill, yet attempts to develop this skill are thwarted from the start if we can’t even tell strangers on the street not to comment on the shape of our ‘tits’ when we are still children.

Forgotten in all of this is that sex is supposed to be pleasurable, people shouldn’t get internal lacerations from consensual sex, unless it’s something they have specifically requested. Our concept of virginity is outdated as well, why is the only important thing when a penis enters a vagina? There are so many more ways of having sex, and not just for queer people. Sex is better when it is about reciprocal pleasure, you need to be able to say to the person that you’re having sex with, ‘yes that’s working or no that’s not working, can you do it more like this?’ However we are having sex in a society that doesn’t allow space for conversations about that.

We can be on the BBC talking about murderers, about complicated political ideas, about tragedies faced by families dealing with a variety of crises, but we are unable to talk about sex openly. We can’t address it, we are too scundered, even though that embarrassment creates a void that leads to our young people being educated by the internet; by the most popular types of porn which debase women, people of colour and trans people.

Popular porn is what we are offering to our culture instead of real conversations about pleasure. Young people are divided by gender for sex education, which is largely provided for by religious organisations. It’s no coincidence that the same organisations that are against contraception and abortions, are against LGBT people and sex before marriage.

If we let these people misinform our children, our offspring will look somewhere else instead, for something that more closely reflects the real lives they live than the prim fantasies that abstinence-only, anti LGBT sex education provides.

Not only have we no adequate ways to punish and re-educate young men with monstrous ideas about what women are (less than human receptacles for sperm and babies) but we are enabling them from children to become this way.

If we want our future to be safer and happier for the next generations, then we have to make actual changes to our sex education. We have to stigmatise talking about women and others as less than human and not stigmatise women having sex. We have to teach people that there is no pleasure without consent and that consent is the lowest bar. We have to be prepared to call out ‘banter’ if it demeans anyone because of the type of sex they have. We have to stand up to the tiny minority of bigoted bullies that get their voices amplified too often.

Everyone knows someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, everyone knows someone who has had an abortion or crisis pregnancy, we just need to learn to put on our grown-up pants and talk about these things properly and with respect before any more generations are harmed by our wilful negligence.

– Emma C

Belfast Feminist Network

 

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On pregnant women and disabled children, in a society that cares for neither

For as long as I can remember, women have been warned to adjust our behaviour – before and during pregnancy (as if there was no third option) – to keep us from having disabled children. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t get pregnant after 40. Take folic acid. The need to prevent the birth of disabled children has become such a societal imperative that women have found themselves harassed for having a glass of wine while pregnant, refused service, criminalised, and even sterilised to achieve this goal. The message that underlies all this is clearly one of the undesirability of disability (as well, of course, of it being the woman’s fault).

Obviously there’s a difference between trying to prevent disability in an otherwise healthy pregnancy, and terminating the pregnancy you actually have because of a disability. But that difference isn’t captured by many of the arguments we’re hearing from the anti-repeal side, which talk about birth rates for children with Down Syndrome in Iceland and solemnly warn about a future with no disabled children, in language appropriating the Holocaust. Their stats about Iceland are wrong, as we know, but what if they were right – and what if the reason they were right was not because of high abortion rates where DS was detected, but because of health or lifestyle changes that helped diminish the incidence of DS pregnancies in the first place? Would they be out protesting folic acid suppliers for their role in the genocide of disabled children?

Of course they wouldn’t, and this most of all is what bothers me about the use of children with Down Syndrome in anti-abortion campaigns. It’s a sort of fetishisation of disability, something they would otherwise find deeply undesirable, something they would actually put women in prison to prevent. I’m aware of course that people with disabilities have their own – non-homogeneous – views about their disabilities (no doubt deeply influenced by the barriers society places in front of them, something anti-choicers show little concern about) but that’s not the place where the anti-repeal leaders are coming from. Especially when you know they’d be the first to criticise women for not doing pregnancy right.

Damned if we do have disabled children, damned if we don’t. Almost as if it’s not really about the children at all.

 

With thanks to Danielle and Beth

Pregnant Child Detained in Mental Institution For Asking For An Abortion

To access a life saving abortion in Ireland requires 3 medical professionals (two psychiatrists and one obstetrician) to agree that the woman is at risk of taking her own life. As the recent case of a young girl  shows it only takes one psychiatrist however to get sectioned for wanting an abortion in Ireland.

The girl was legally classed as a child and her identity has understandably been withheld so we know nothing more about her other than that she had an unwanted pregnancy and that when she sought an abortion from her healthcare professionals she was of the understanding that she was being taken to Dublin for the procedure. However unbeknownst to her the consultant psychiatrist had given evidence at a hearing to detain her under the Mental Health Act.

“The consultant psychiatrist was of the opinion that while the child was at risk of self harm and suicide as a result of the pregnancy, this could be managed by treatment and that termination of the pregnancy was not the solution for all of the child’s problems at that stage.”

How frightening it must have been for her to find herself in a mental hospital after travelling to Dublin expecting an abortion. We are told it was “days” later that another hearing was held that resulted in her discharge from the mental hospital. During this time her court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) had employed another consultant psychiatrist to access her and on the basis of their evidence the girl was released from the institution. She spent unnecessary “days” in a mental institution for the “crime” of nothing more than wanting an abortion.

I’ve heard numerous reports of suicidal people trying to access mental health units in Irish hospitals who have been sent away. In future I’ll suggest to those of them who are capable of getting pregnant to say they’re pregnant and want an abortion, as that seems to be a sure way to get sectioned.

This case raises a number of questions. How is it that it only took one psychiatrist to have the girl sectioned? Why was the PLDP act not enacted for this pregnant, suicidal child? How can the public be assured that the personal beliefs of medical professionals won’t interfere with them being able to access the healthcare they need? Did Government Ministers know of the case at the time?

Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said:

“Looking at the report, it’s hard not to think that the psychiatrist in this case essentially used the Mental Health Act as a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs. It is clear we need some process which ensures medical professionals with such conscientious objections cannot block timely health care in critical cases.”

This is the latest case in a long line of women and girls who have been failed by the state. Ms X was another suicidal child prevented from accessing an abortion in 1992 and Ms Y a teenage rape victim likewise led to believe she would be given an abortion and instead detained against her will. Ireland has a disgraceful history stretching back to the Magdalene Laundries of locking up pregnant women.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is supposed to “protect” women who are at risk of taking their own lives, not used as a tool to lock women who want abortions up.

The Irish Government are allowing this human rights abuse to happen on their watch, leaving a trail of abused and sometimes dead women, girls and children behind them.

Rally to Repeal is on Saturday 17th in Dublin. If you can’t go please contact your local T.Ds and ask them to urgently implement the findings of the Citizens Assembly.

You can sign an UPLIFT petition here:https://action.uplift.ie/campaigns/187

*I’d like to acknowledge the work of the Child Law Project. We would know nothing of this case if it wasn’t for their work. Since 2012 they have been able to report to the public on child care proceedings in the courts, they aim to report on 10% of cases.

Ireland: Domestic Abusers Paradise

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Ireland: Domestic Abusers Paradise

Pink circles taryn pic

The following is a not-at-all comprehensive list of things that are not considered a crime in Ireland (if the person doing them to you is your partner or ex partner):

  • Refusing to get you medical attention when you need it
  • Deliberately embarking on a campaign of brainwashing to break you down and erode your self worth
  • Leaving you sick without food or water for more than 24 hours
  • Belittling and mocking you for your health issues
  • Stopping you from seeing your friends and/or family
  • Hacking into your accounts and spying on you
  • Trying to turn your children against you
  • Extorting money from you by coercion
  • Coming into your house without your permission
  • Going through your belongings
  • Leaving photographs of themselves in your bed
  • Sending abusive texts or emails
  • Using children to hurt/control you (by not attending to their needs when in their care, refusing to sign permission slips/passport applications/H.S.E forms etc)
  • Spreading malicious lies about you
  • Reading your texts and emails
  • Lurking round your property and looking through your back windows in the morning
  • Using jointly owned assets (property etc) as a means to control you
  • Not allowing you any money or taking all the money without your knowledge or permission
  • Sabotaging your contraception
  • Not allowing you to have an abortion if you want one
  • Neglecting the children when they are in his care
  • Not allowing you any time to yourself
  • Not allowing you to work
  • Making you keep a diary of what you do every minute of the day
  • Using their financial means and your lack of to control you
  • Deliberatley stripping you of your sense of identity
  • Threatening to take your children off you
  • Threatening to harm your children and or pets
  • Threatening to kill themselves in an effort to control you

All of the above examples I’ve taken from my own experience and those of the many women* I’ve supported after leaving abusive relationships. Many of these examples were cited in dealings with domestic abuse services and Gardai and the victim was told they had no case against the abuser. They are just some of the techniques used by abusive people to emotionally abuse others. I call it psychological torture, a brainwashing that happens over time that slowly but surely erodes the sense of self. This connection to the man’s needs creates a binding dynamic that makes it extra difficult for women to leave. Their victim’s sense of self is so eroded and they are so brainwashed into putting him first that even after leaving the most awful of relationships they are still thinking of and worried about the ‘poor’ man they’ve left. A lot of the work I do is helping women to reclaim their sense of self and to learn to put themselves and their needs first.

If you are a victim who has suffered emotional abuse constituting any of the above list (or other emotionally abusive actions), there are a few countries in the world that consider that treatment of you a crime. The U.K, France and Canada all consider emotional abuse to be a crime, as does the the U.N and domestic abuse service providers who work with abused women. Given the long term affects on the victim are the same regardless of the type of abuse perpetrated, why is it that most countries (including Ireland) only recognise the physical body as capable of being ‘abused’?

According to a U.N report on violence against women,

“Forty-three per cent of women in the 28 European Union Member States have experienced some form of psychological violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”

43%. That is nearly half the female population of Europe that has been a victim of a type of abuse that is considered a criminal act in several first world countries and that is every bit as harmful to the victim as physical violence.

In Ireland, domestic abuse is not even seen as a crime, as Jane Ruffino points out in her excellent piece on the subject. A woman in Ireland whose partner or ex partner is doing any of the things on the list above has no legal recourse to get him to stop. Yet the list above contains actions that are considered warning signs if you are an expert in domestic abuse. And as we know, domestic abuse often ends only when the woman is dead.

Data on domestic abuse is not even collected in Ireland. Perhaps the Irish government thinks it can put it’s head in the sand as to the scale of the problem. That Gardai were grossly under reporting domestic abuse figures came to light when the Northern Irish Police released their report detailing more than 29,000 domestic abuse incidents. When this figure was compared with 3678 incidents reported by Gardai the same year people started to question the validity of the Irish figures. Since Ireland has nearly 3 times the population of Northern Ireland our figures should’ve looked more like 87,000. But then I suppose figures like that might require some kind of action on behalf of the Irish government.

According to the U.N less than 10% of women report physical, emotional or sexual crimes against them to the Police. If we are to assume that the Irish figures should be more like 87,000 and that that is representative of the 10% who report, we would be looking at 783,000 women in Ireland currently or previously being a victim of abuse (excluding child abuse). That roughly equals one sixth of the Irish population. Add that to the one in four who have been abused as a child and you have a country with a massive abuse problem. A country that doesn’t record domestic abuse figures and has a horrific history of covering up (and enabling even) child abuse.

As the government in Ireland seems disinterested in knowing how many of it’s citizens have been abused, perhaps some monetary figures would incentivise them to care. The link between metal health and trauma has been widely reported on, and the cost of mental health problems to the Irish economy is 3 billion a year. While some mental health problems are physiological, research shows that a lot of mental health problems stem from trauma. There are potentially 783,000 women in Ireland who have or are currently a victim of domestic abuse (excluding child abuse statistics). Some of these women have children who have also been exposed to if not abuse itself then the aftermath of experiencing abuse. These women have friends, family and work colleagues who will similarly be exposed and perhaps affected. That is a lot of potential mental health issues.

If we cared about abuse (if we cared about women) we might know what the actual figure of the economic cost of domestic abuse is. I’m not an economist, so I can only talk about the human cost. The human cost of living in a country that doesn’t view someone psychologically torturing you, denying you healthcare, tricking you into getting pregnant, threatening you, stalking you, lying about you or using your children against you as a crime worth prosecuting. A country that doesn’t even bother to collect data about the abuse you are receiving. And I have to ask, what kind of country accepts this behaviour as socially and legally justifiable?

NOTE ON ACTIONS: You can write to, phone or email your TD about the Domestic Violence Bill and ask for:

  • Domestic abuse to be made a criminal act.
  • Data to be collected by the Gardai on domestic abuse.
  • Emotional abuse to be included as a crime.
  • The name to be changed to ‘Domestic Abuse’ to encompass all types of abuse, including those that aren’t physical.

*I’m speaking of women in this piece as they are the most affected by domestic abuse and I have only worked with women survivors, however men can of course be victims of abuse as well.