Women’s Rights and Equality Under Scrutiny at UN

  • Commission publishes independent recommendations to assist UN Committee in assessing State’s performance on gender equality
  • Irish Government to be asked to account for record on fulfilling women’s rights and equality for first time in over a decade.

A report to assess Ireland’s performance on combatting discrimination against women has been published today (Thursday 9th February) by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”). The detailed report is published ahead of a formal UN appearance by the State to account for its record in fulfilling women’s rights and equality in Ireland.

The findings and recommendations on areas such as workplace discrimination, equal representation, gender based violence, threats to marginalised groups of women, and access to justice, published today, will be presented to the key United Nations committee in Geneva early next week by the Commission. The report will inform a UN review of Ireland’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The UN examination of Ireland, which takes place next Wednesday (15th February) will mark the first time in over a decade Ireland has been scrutinised on its compliance with UN standards on protecting women and girls from discrimination. The Tánaiste is expected to lead the Irish delegation providing detail on the progress made by Ireland.

In the 12 years since the last examination of Ireland, the Commission is clear in its report that there has been considerable positive legal, policy and institutional developments. These include strategic and legislative responses to tackle gender based violence; an increase in women’s representation in Parliament, in local government, in the judiciary, diplomatic service and on public boards; enactment of gender recognition legislation, and the introduction of marriage equality.

As the national human rights institution, the Commission’s role in its reporting is to independently assess the Irish State’s performance. A number of issues and recommendations for action are raised within the detailed report.

On Employment, and Social and Economic Life

  • The Commission reports that the gender pay gap of 14%, and gender pension gap of 38% remain to be addressed, and recommends that evidence from the Low Pay Commission on the prevalence of women in minimum wage jobs be accounted for by Government (P89).

On Participation in Public Life

  • The Commission has reported that between 2008 and 2014, government funding to women’s organisations was cut by 48.7% (P75).
  • As identified previously by an Oireachtas committee, childcare, cash, confidence, culture and candidate selection remain barriers to equal political participation (P73).

On National Machinery for the Advancement of Women

  • While noting the forthcoming National Women’s Strategy, the Commission focuses on the Public Sector Duty of public bodies to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and protect human rights in the performance of their duties (P47-48) and prompts the State to advance the institutional framework for national human rights and equality budget proofing (P49-50).

On Issues Affecting Specific Groups of Women

  • Women in direct provision are today among those most marginalised, and the Commission is clear that the system negatively impacts on a wide range of women’s rights. (P115)
  • During its consultation, the Commission repeatedly heard the call for increased support for independent living for women with disabilities, along with greater protection of their family and private lives. (P109)

On Access to Justice in Relation to Historical Abuses of Women’s Rights

  • The Commission is of the view that women who have suffered abuses must have clear access to justice in line with international human rights standards. Redress must be provided to women who suffered abuses within Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes or as a result of symphysiotomy (P41-45).

Also raised by the Commission in the report published today, is the need for constitutional reform around stereotyping (P54); the non-publication between 2014 and 2016 of annual data-sets on women and men in Ireland, acknowledging that this CSO data will resume in 2017 (P30); and reiterates again, on sexual and reproductive health, the recommendations of various UN treaty monitoring bodies over the period of the report on Ireland’s legal framework (P104-105).

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated today:

“This Commission report will independently inform the UN questioning of Ireland. It highlights the broad spectrum of current equality challenges facing women across workplaces, across education, health, representation and broader society. It makes clear recommendations for action.

“It has been over a decade since the State last faced direct UN questioning on its actions in combatting discrimination against women and girls. Today’s report shows that while positive developments have been seen in some areas, including women’s representation and combating gender based violence, significant gaps in protection and equality provision remain, which need to be addressed.  

“The women we spoke to across the country in preparing this report, shared a singular desire to make Ireland a more equal society.”


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095


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Notes to editor:

Read the full text of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission report has been brought together after an extensive national consultation through 2016 which included meetings around the country, meeting with members of the public during the 2016 National Ploughing Championships; at meetings with representative organisations; by speaking with women in direct provision centres; by hearing the views and experience of women in prisons; and by collecting views online and in writing.

The detailed report makes over one hundred individual recommendations for action in combatting discrimination.

Ireland’s UN examination detail

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will present this report to the UN in Geneva ahead of Ireland’s formal questioning which takes place on 15th February 2017 from 9am (Irish Time).

Live Webstream for Media and Civil Society

As well as presenting findings in Geneva, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will be hosting a web-streaming of the UN examination of Ireland on Wednesday 15th February from 9am at its offices 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7.

A wide variety of civil society organisations and individuals that have provided expert evidence on gender discrimination in Ireland will be present, and media are invited to attend.


The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty which is often described as a bill of rights for women. Ireland ratified CEDAW in 1985, and was last examined in 2005.

CEDAW sets out what governments must do to improve the situation of women

living in the country, including to:

  • address gender stereotyping and violence against women;
  • promote gender equality in public life; and
  • protect women’s rights to education, health and employment.

Countries that sign up to (‘ratify’) CEDAW agree to take concrete steps to end gender-based discrimination and improve the situation of all women living in that country.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was set up on 1 November 2014 as an independent public body to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014 sets out the functions of the Commission, i.e. to ensure that:

  • there is respect for, and protection of, everyone’s human rights;
  • there is respect for the dignity and worth of each person;
  • a person’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice, discrimination, or neglect;
  • everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to take part in the economic, political, social or cultural life of the State; and
  • people respect each other, respect equality and human rights, and understand the value of diversity within society

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.