Wasn't the Marriage Referendum result only massive? We're walking on sunshine about it but we're also conscious that there are a few more things that need to be tackled to make this country truly a great one to live in.
The biggest bugbear for so many Irish women, the fact that we don’t have agency over our own bodies has dominated the media space in recent years, thanks to the tragic cases of Savita Halappanavar and, in August 2014, the case of the young immigrant woman who became pregnant following a rape and then forced, by court order, to have a Caesarean section.
Both cases politicised people like never before but, as it stands right now, the only access an Irish woman will have to an abortion is if the pregnancy will endanger her life. Otherwise, it’s on her shoulders to seek help elsewhere – usually in the UK.
In 2013, more than 3,500 Irish women travelled to the UK for an abortion, according to figures from the British department of health. Commenting on them, the Irish Family Planning Association said the numbers were “a modern indictment of the State’s treatment of women with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.”
Recent statistics from the National Women’s Council of Ireland put the gender pay gap at 14% for women. And that’s not in our favour. Nope, we’re paid 14% less than our male co-workers for a complex set of reasons (despite the fact we do better at school and university than men), some of which author Clare O’Hagan addressed in her recent book, Complex Inequality and Working Mothers.
Irish women are paid 14% less than our male co-workers.
The book looks at how “changes in the male breadwinner model, with women’s participation in paid work, have not been matched by changes in society, polity and economy to support gender equality. Policies for supporting unpaid care work are undeveloped compared with labour market activation measures. Families are currently combining working and caring in many different ways, but with little social support. This book demonstrates the heroic efforts women make in combining motherhood with paid work as if they are ‘ideal workers’ in the workplace, and full-time-in-the-home mothers and the demands on women in both spheres.”
What do we want to see? At its most basic, better holistic supports for women (and men) which allow them to have children when they want to, have those children minded the way they want them to be cared for, and for them to continue their careers (if that’s their choice) without fear of stagnation – or worse.
Subject to a reduced VAT rate of 13.5%, while condoms aren’t considered a luxury item any more (lucky us!), they’re still more expensive than we’d like – and, in fact, when we surveyed STELLAR readers for our annual Sex Survey, one of the issues we heard about not using contraception is around the cost of it. Surely it makes sense to give people cheap access to a reliable form of contraception that can prevent both pregnancy and STIs? Say it ain’t just us?
A change that would vastly aid women, men and children, allowing men to spend time at home with their partner and new baby at a time when that support is crucial, Minister of State for Equality, New Communities & Culture Aodhán Ó Ríordáin agrees that our current lack of provision for men is “something we are well behind on.”
According to Citizens Information, “Paternity leave is not recognised in employment law. In other words, employers are not obliged to grant male employees special paternity leave (either paid or unpaid) following the birth of their child. Annual leave taken following the birth of a child is treated in employment law in the same way as leave taken at any other time of the year. It is at the discretion of the employer to decide who can and cannot take annual leave at a given time.”
But change could be on the horizon, and with a General Election looming, it could be a hot ticket. The Labour Party has just said it will introduce paid paternity leave of two weeks – if we elect them. Watch this space.
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