| 21.9°C Dublin

Primary and secondary school children to be taught about consent and abusive relationships

Close

Justice Helen McEntee and Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the launch of the plan to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocallireland

Justice Helen McEntee and Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the launch of the plan to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocallireland

Justice Helen McEntee and Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the launch of the plan to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocallireland

Primary and secondary school children will be taught about consent and abusive relationships as part of a landmark plan to end violence against women.

It is understood that all schools, regardless of their religious ethos, will be rolling out the new curriculum.

The reform of relationship and sex education was announced as part of a new “zero tolerance” plan for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Under the Government's five-year plan, which has already had over €360m pledged towards it, the CSO will regularly carry out national studies on the scale of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Special judges for rape and domestic abuse cases are being considered.

Women could have the right to find out if their partner has a violent past, under a domestic abuse register being considered by gardaí.

Gardaí will be given body cameras, to help when dealing with domestic abuse cases.

A special public awareness campaign aimed at men and boys is being designed to try to help deal with the underlying causes of violence against women.

The Government has also vowed to enact a new hate crime law, which would include crimes motivated by prejudice against gender. This would mean that some crimes can be prosecuted as hate crimes “where they are motivated by misogyny”.

Paid domestic violence leave will also be rolled out.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

The third national strategy for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, which was approved by cabinet on Tuesday, will double the number of domestic abuse refuge spaces from over 140 to at least 280. However, this will still put Ireland well behind the over 500 refuge spaces that it’s required to have, based on the population.

The Department of Justice said it is also working with gardaí to try to develop new powers to allow them to remove the abuser from the family home - allowing the victim and their children to stay in the property if it is safe to do so.

Planners would be required to consider how to make public spaces safe, particularly for lone women, as would late night licenced venues.

The plan will also consider the “rationale” for allowing a rape victim’s counselling notes to be used in trials. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has said that the use of confidential counselling notes was often used as a weapon against rape victims, which made the process of taking their attacker to court much harder.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said it was important for judges to be able to “strike a balance” and decide what is relevant information for a trial, and what is not.

While Ms McEntee’s department is leading the strategy, its delivery involves a number of other government departments including health, education, defence, housing and culture.

Both the primary and secondary school curriculums will be updated to consider consent, coercive control, domestic violence and safe use of the internet.

At secondary school level, the new junior cycle curriculum is expected to be rolled out in September 2023, with the new senior cycle curriculum rolled out the year after.

It is expected that the new primary school curriculum, which will consider health relationships education in an age appropriate way, will be ready for public consultation by 2024 but it is not yet known when it will be rolled out.

Asked if all schools would deliver the new curriculum, regardless of their religious ethos, Education Minister Norma Foley said consultations with schools so far had been “very positive”.

“The bottom line is that our schools will ensure that students have access to the information that they need to have,” Ms Foley said.

The new strategy will also set up a new state agency, which will be the first to be devoted to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was looking forward to the new agency rolling out modern, fit for purpose refuges across the country.

The plan will also consider sexual harassment in workplaces, including creative industries and the Defence Forces.

Separately, Ms McEntee said her department was currently considering a proposal to allow those who provide character witnesses for people convicted of sexual assault to be questioned in court.

It emerged this week that 11 character references had been provided for a man who, earlier this year, was found guilty of raping and abusing his partner and her son.

Ms McEntee said her personal opinion was that anyone who provides a character witness for someone who has been found guilty of sexual assault should be willing to “come before the court”. 

She added that her department was also considering the link between pornography and violence against women, with the minister saying pornography had become “more violent”, “more degrading”, and had “changed relationships”.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre welcomed what it described as an “ambitious” strategy.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland said it was “the most significant strategy” for ending violence against women and for women’s equality.

Safe Ireland, an umbrella organisation of domestic violence services, welcomed the strategy’s decision to view children as both witnesses and victims of domestic abuse.


Most Watched





Privacy