The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has raised concerns about discrimination against women in the Irish healthcare system in a report to a United Nations (UN) body.
In its report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the human-rights body also expresses concerns about the level of representation of women in political and public life.
The IHREC report acknowledges positive developments in recent years – citing legislation on termination of pregnancy and gender pay gaps, the publication of a strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and ratification of the UNCRPD.
It adds, however, that there is “insufficient monitoring and implementation” of the strategies and action plans published by the State.
The commission cites the recent publication of an independent review of the operation of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, saying that it is concerned about “a lack of political will” to make changes on foot of the report’s recommendations.
Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney stated: “The exceptionally slow pace of change in ending discrimination against women in all areas of Irish life is extremely frustrating.
“There are significant gaps – in areas like healthcare, political participation, poverty and the impact of climate change – which need to be seriously addressed.”
On health, the IHREC report states that healthcare services in Ireland continue to suffer from “patriarchal institutional legacies” that compromise enjoyment of the right to health by women.
It also criticises what it describes as the State’s “preference for adversarial strategies – including by positioning itself against individuals seeking to assert their rights”.
On politics, the report says that, in the six years since the UN committee’s last review of Ireland, there has been “negligible change” in the area of women’s political participation, with representation in the Dáil increasing only marginally between 2016 and 2023.
“Only one in four members of local authorities are women, lower than the EU average,” the report states, adding that it is concerned with the high prevalence of violence and harassment of women in politics.
IHREC welcomes the Government’s commitment to review equality legislation in Ireland, but has called for a new ground linked to socio-economic discrimination to be included within the Equality Acts.
Its report also states that structural inequalities in Ireland – including gender gaps in income, wealth, pensions, unpaid work, and access to decent work – “combine to compound the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on women”.