Opinion: campaigners, activists and governments in both countries have worked hard to try to eradicate violence against women, but there is still a long way to go

By Mirna Vohnsen and Deirdre Kelly, TU Dublin

Today is International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. Violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights violations of today and a global health crisis. According to UN Women, one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. However, other less obvious forms of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence include online harassment and emotional, psychological, verbal and economic abuse.

Grassroots campaigners and activists around the world tirelessly fight to eradicate violence against women. Ireland and Argentina are exemplary in this regard. Activism led to the landmark referendum on abortion in Ireland in 2018 and legalisation in Argentina in 2020. Although legislation on abortion has been a milestone for women's rights, both countries still have obstacles to overcome, not only in relation to women’s reproductive rights, but also to other forms of violence against women.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Archives, Anne Marie Smyth reports for RTÉ News on a protest by women's groups outside the Dáil to mark International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1997

In recent years, both countries have made some progress in tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, in legislation, policing, the judiciary and with public awareness campaigns. Changes in policy and legislation are not merely the result of political will, but also a significant example of how grassroots activism shapes public policy and puts issues that affect women on the political agenda through a bottom-up approach to social change.

Both governments have aimed at building more equal and inclusive societies and have passed numerous laws to address gender inequality. Among these laws, referenda on divorce (1995) and same sex-marriage (2015) were approved in Ireland. More recently, the country passed the Domestic Violence Act (2018), which made coercive control a criminal offence, and the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act (2020, known as Coco's Law), which led to the criminalisation of non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

Likewise, Argentina legalised divorce (1987) and same sex-marriage (2010). It passed the law on prevention, punishment and eradication of violence against women (2009), which criminalises physical, sexual, economic, symbolic and psychological harm to women, including coercion. It approved Micaela's Law (2019), which made training on gender and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence mandatory for all state officials and workers.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From Reuters, thousands of people marched in Buenos Aires in June 2022 against gender violence as part of a movement called Ni Una Menos (Not One Woman Less)

Some other areas of policy reform in both countries include overhauling relationship and sexuality education, introducing gender quotas in politics, and providing contraception, which is free and universally available in Argentina, whereas it is only currently freely available from age 17 to 25 in Ireland.

Civil society, activists and women’s organisations have spearheaded many of the campaigns that have led to these legislative changes. They have also worked closely with policymakers by devising comprehensive national action plans to prevent and end domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Earlier this year, Ireland published its Zero Tolerance Plan and Argentina introduced its National Action Plan.

But notwithstanding such significant strides in legislation, both countries still face systemic and structural issues regarding the implementation of these ambitious laws and policies. Undoubtedly, they still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality and eradicate domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland, Aisling Moloney outlines the Zero Tolerance plan on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence

According to Women's Aid, 249 women were killed violently in Ireland between 1996 and 2022. In Argentina, La Casa del Encuentro states that there have been 2,041 femicides between 2015 and 2022. The yearly number of femicides has not slowed down, which shows that having good laws is not enough. A significant gap exists between victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence who approach frontline services and those who go on to report to the authorities. Women are still being killed because of the tendency to minimise their allegations as exaggerated.

Both countries have faced substantial funding issues and there is a critical shortage of available refuge spaces for victims of domestic abuse. Despite legalisation of abortion, numerous barriers prevent its access, including gestational limitations, mandatory waiting periods, lack of information and regional differences in availability.

Problems with data collection and fragmented departmental responsibilities and arrangements have further exacerbated progress in tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. All of these issues disproportionately affect marginalised women, including Travellers, Roma, migrants, those with disabilities, LGBTQI+, indigenous women, those who are economically disadvantaged and particularly those suffering overlapping forms of discrimination.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime, Orla O'Connor from the National Women's Council of Ireland and Seán Cooke from The Men's Development Network about male violence towards women in the wake of the murder of Ashling Murphy in January 2022

Beyond legislative and policy changes, more needs to be done to change societal and cultural attitudes and ingrained sexual and gender stereotypes that propagate domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Orla O'Connor, the director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, highlights the importance of awareness campaigns; relationship and sexuality education from primary to tertiary level; and critically, engaging men and boys in the conversation, points that are also relevant in an Argentine context.

For social change to have a long-lasting impact, it is vital to include men, who have traditionally held more power and influence and are well represented in the police force and the judiciary. It is also important to stress the benefits of gender equality for men and encourage alternative notions of masculinities that are not associated with violence.

Women’s rights are human rights and should be treated as such. Rather than putting the emphasis on the victim by referring to violence against women and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, perhaps it is time to put the spotlight on the patriarchal system that enables it, and call it what it is: patriarchal violence.

Dr Mirna Vohnsen is Assistant Lecturer in Spanish at TU Dublin. Dr Deirdre Kelly is a Lecturer in the School of Languages, Law and Social Sciences at TU Dublin.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ