Press Release by the Abortion Rights Campaign: Irish Government Continues to Fail Women as it Rejects 16 Recommendations on Abortion


Ireland fails to honour its international obligations to women and girls

Justice scales

A joint statement drafted by the Abortion Rights Campaign, the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland and the Sexual Rights Initiative has been delivered at the adoption of Ireland’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report in Geneva.

Ireland’s second examination under the UPR process commenced in May 2016. The monitoring system of the UN Human Rights Council allows Members States to directly examine their contemporaries and recommend ways in which the State can improve upon its commitments to human rights. 262 recommendations in total were put forward by State parties. 152 garnered the immediate support of the Irish delegation. 13 did not, and were noted. 97 were to be examined by the Irish Government and responded to in September 2016.

ARC, SWAI and the Sexual Rights Initiative expressed their deep concern that the Irish government failed to accept 17 recommendations relating to reproductive rights. The recommendations by Germany, India, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Iceland, Macedonia, Uruguay, the Netherlands and Slovenia are fully consistent with criticism of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws made by the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Committee in 2005, the Committee Against Torture in 2011, the Human Rights Committee in 2014, the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in 2016 and the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016.

Abortion Rights Campaign Spokesperson Michali Hyams said: “Ireland’s government, in rejecting all 16 recommendations on abortion, has once again chosen to ignore the clear messages of the international community and its obligations to provide for abortion in Ireland. The failure to accept these recommendations, along with the continued criminalisation of women and girls who seek abortions, constitutes a serious human rights violation. The Government must ensure that the work of the upcoming Citizens Assembly is guided by the recommendations made by the numerous UN bodies over the past decade.”

“Every instance where Ireland has been examined by UN treaty bodies has resulted in Ireland being told that our abortion laws are incompatible with women’s human rights. That Ireland should continue to ignore countless recommendations and fail to honour its international obligations to the women and girls in this country is appalling.”

Ireland partially accepted recommendations from Lithuania and New Zealand on ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education and the information and means to reduce the likelihood of unintended pregnancy. The recommendations urged the State to introduce mandatory education in schools, with an emphasis on preventing early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Irish schools are free to deliver sex education in line with their ethos and young people across Ireland receive vastly differing information.

Michali Hyams added: “Access to information, education and sexual and reproductive health services are all human rights imperatives. The State must ensure every young person in Ireland has access to fact-based, rather than faith-based, sex and relationship education.”

The groups also expressed their disappointment that issues relating to the human rights of sex workers were largely ignored during the review process. It was noted that: “The Government has repeatedly failed to consider evidence and analysis from UN agencies, the Special Procedures, civil society and from sex workers themselves, outlining the detrimental impact criminal laws have on the human rights of sex workers.” Furthermore, the State was urged to acknowledge current sex workers expertise on their own work and lives, and develop policies that reflect this.