Feminism still relevant in modern Ireland, forum told
STEVEN CARROLL IRISH TIMES 31ST OCTOBER 2008
A PREDOMINANTLY female crowd of some 80 people gathered in Dublin last night to debate if feminism is still necessary in Ireland. The answer was a resounding yes.
Issues including reproductive rights, equality in the workplace, violence against women, public representation, prostitution and human trafficking were all discussed at the inaugural meeting of the Feminist Open Forum.
“The draconian laws in Ireland on abortion rights are the main reason I’m a feminist,” said Niav Keating of the pro-choice organisation Choice Ireland.
Ms Keating said the laws meant that 4,686 women travelled from Ireland to the UK, 485 travelled to the Netherlands and many others went elsewhere as “abortion tourists” last year.
Journalist and activist Therese Caherty said that despite some progress in recent years the worlds of politics, law and business were still dominated by men.
Ms Caherty said structural differences ensured this divide remained in place, with women continuing to carry out the majority of unpaid work, such as childcare and home-making, and that for this reason she believed feminism remained necessary.
“Children are the main reason why women are being held back,” said Independent Senator Ivana Bacik. “They don’t make it easy for women with young children to go back out into the working world.”
Ms Bacik said women continued to be underrepresented in public life and that the key to achieving equality in the workplace was the recognition of and introduction of full paternity rights.
Gráinne Healy, chairwoman of the European Observatory on Violence Against Women, said feminism was still necessary to address issues of genital mutilation, prostitution and human trafficking.
Ms Healy said a greater number of women in public life might see such human rights violations approached in a more effective manner.
She pointed to evidence from Sweden where in 1999 a majority-female parliament tackled prostitution by legislating to make soliciting sex, rather than working as a prostitute, an offence.
Elisa O’Donovan, of University College Dublin Students and Staff against Sexism, said a snapshot of modern Ireland highlighted that the “supposed liberation of women” over the past 20 years had not been a success.
She said the popularity of Bratz dolls, Kiss magazine and Sex and the City among children, teenagers and adults respectively made her believe the liberation and empowerment of women had not yet taken place.
Irish women still had massive self-esteem and body image issues, and had one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe.
© 2008 The Irish Times