It is well understood by now that DSGBV is a violation of human rights that reflects and creates gender inequalities.
Levels of domestic violence and sexual assault, primarily against women, continue to be high worldwide. A 2014 study of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency found that 26% of women in Ireland had been subject to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner or by “any other person” since the age of 15.
There is also growing awareness of the different forms of DSGBV that women experience before and during migration, particularly where migration occurs in situations of armed conflict or other catastrophic disruption to everyday life, or in the form of trafficking.
Yet, levels of available services continue to be grossly inadequate to meet current need nationwide while access to existing services is typically conditional on citizenship or permanent resident status.
We cannot be surprised, therefore, that migrants who experience DSGBV often encounter insurmountable obstacles to accessing assistance.
As Hannah Arendt argued, the most egregious violation of all is to be rendered “rightless”, to be without an entitlement to the protection of any government.
From this perspective, Ireland, as a host country, has an additional and not a lesser duty to care about the human rights of migrants who are potentially more vulnerable to harms, not only because of the nature of their migration journey but also as a consequence of the “non-citizen” label assigned to them by the state.
GBV-MIG Ireland at NUI Galway (www.nuigalway.ie/gbv-mig) is a Horizon 2020 Gender Net Plus project that aims to make visible the hidden nexus of gender-based violence and migration in Ireland.
Specifically, the research asks what increases and what reduces vulnerability to DSGBV among migrant women in the context of their arrival, reception and integration.
Part of a seven-country study, the project examines how different forms of inequality affect vulnerability to DSGBV and documents strategies and policies that work to enhance the agency of migrant women to improve their situation, so they can live free from violence.
The first phase of the study involved a comprehensive review of Ireland’s policy response to DSGBV as it affects migrant women.
This revealed a pattern of failure on the part of the state. For instance, the failure to carry out assessments of the vulnerability of asylum seekers as required by EU regulations; the absence of assistance to women experiencing DSGBV who live in direct provision or whose legal status is dependent on an abusive partner; and not fulfilling international obligations to identify and assist trafficking victims.
This situation highlights a major paradox. Each policy failure reflects a lack of Government action – despite international legal obligations and apparent policy commitments to do so – to assist so-called “vulnerable groups”, or more accurately, people rendered vulnerable by different adverse circumstances.