3 March 2005 Edition

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Women who walk into doors - Amnesty looks at domestic violence on International Women's Day

Outsiders can rarely understand the true extent of the suffering endured by a woman living in an abusive relationship. But on International Women's Day (8 March), Amnesty International plans to bring the issue of domestic violence to the fore.

The sensitive issue of violence in the home is not new, but in recent times the number of women affected by it in Ireland has been growing. And both governments, North and South, are failing to tackle the problem.

The inability of the legal system to properly deal with violent offenders (no more than 6 per cent of perpetrators of domestic violence are sent to prison) means fewer women are reporting incidents.

And women's refuges throughout the country are so underfunded that many women who do pluck up the courage to leave their abusive partners find they have nowhere to go.

According to Kieran Clifford of Amnesty Ireland, the decision to base next week's festival around domestic violence stems from a long-running campaign organised by the group.

"This issue is just not getting the sort of attention it needs," she told An Phoblacht.

It was after numerous meetings with Irish women's NGOs that the human rights organisation decided to concentrate on domestic violence, although several of their speakers and events will deal with problems faced internationally by women, such as rape as a weapon of war and the use of child soldiers.

"One of our plans is to circulate ten beer mats we have designed, which reveal startling statistics about domestic violence," Kieran said. "The idea is to target young men in pubs, making them aware of the problem and getting them on board to help with the campaign."

Clifford said the response to the campaign has been tremendous.

"Every day we get people coming in saying they want to help. This festival is so important, not just in the way it's bringing women together to enjoy themselves, but also in the way it's exposing the issue of domestic violence, which stays mostly behind closed doors."

The Facts

• One in four women experience domestic abuse during their lifetime

• 12.5% of 400 pregnant women surveyed in the Rotunda maternity hospital were abused during pregnancy

• 10,248 Garda callouts in 2002 were to domestic violence incidents

• 90% of domestic violence occurs while children are at home

• 29% of murders in the Six Counties are domestic abuse situations

• 26-County Government funding for women's refuges has been frozen since 2001

• Almost 90% of women stay with violent partners, as they have nowhere to go

• 18,902 calls were made to Women's Aid in 2003 — lack of funding meant 6,000 calls went unanswered

• On average, a woman suffers 35 assaults before she goes to the authorities

• Domestic violence results in more death and ill health in women than cancer or road traffic accidents


List of key Amnesty events

Friday, 4 March: The Vagina Monologues

Saturday, 5 March: Speech from Mexican human rights worker

Ana Paula Hernández

Sunday, 6 March: Speech by Kongosi Mussanzi from

Democratic Republic of Congo

Monday, 7 March: Eat out for Amnesty. Selected restaurants in

Temple Bar will donate 20% of their

takings to Amnesty

Tuesday, 8 March: Roundtable on research undertaken by

Amnesty and women's NGOs

Handover of petition to the Irish Government

Demonstration at the Dáil

For further information, contact: Amnesty International Irish Section,

Tel: (01) 677 6361 www.amnesty.ie

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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