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DSGBV bill’s refuge plans fall short – IHREC

13 Jul 2023 / human rights Print

DSGBV bill’s refuge plans fall short – IHREC

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has called for commitments on refuge accommodation outlined in the Third National Strategy on Domestic Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (DSGBV) to be revised.

The organisation says that it wants capacity to be expanded to comply with Council of Europe standards on ensuring the protection of survivors and victims.

The calls were contained in IHREC’s legislative observations on the general scheme of the Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Agency Bill, submitted to the Department of Justice.

Capacity issues

The human-rights body says that DSGBV is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Ireland.

“The strategy currently pledges to provide 280 refuge spaces, which is considerably lower than the 675 spaces needed for Council of Europe guidelines compliance,” it states.

According to IHREC, current data indicate that the majority of refusals for women seeking refuge are due to capacity issues.

Its submission says that failure by the State to provide access to immediate protection will mean violation of its international commitments under the UN Convention on the Eliminations of all Forms of Violence against Women.

New agency

IHREC’s submission also calls for the new statutory agency to be set up under the bill to be “victim- and survivor-centred”, adding that it should safeguard the equality and human rights of those that it will be providing services to, and ensure that provision takes their specific needs into account.

The human-rights body has also repeated a call for the establishment of specialised accommodation facilities for victims and survivors of human trafficking.

“Given the gendered nature of trafficking, that accommodation should be gender-sensitive, appropriate and safe,” it adds.

“The absence of gender-specific shelters in Ireland leads to further risk of harm, re-trafficking and further victimisation,” IHREC states, pointing to domestic and international criticism of the use of direct-provision accommodation for victims of trafficking.

The body’s submission also highlights the importance of collecting data, not only to document the prevalence of DSGBV, but to inform the legal and policy framework surrounding the issue.


It also makes a number of recommendations on board membership, staffing and governance at the new agency.

Sinéad Gibney (chief commissioner) described the establishment of the new agency as “an essential step in moving towards zero tolerance” on DSGBV.

“It is essential that the lessons are learned from past attempts, and that this agency has the independence, funding and adequate expertise and experience needed to effect real change,” she added.

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