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Statement by President Michael D. Higgins for International Women’s Day 2023

Date: Wed 8th Mar, 2023 | 10:17

“As President of Ireland, may I send my very best wishes to all those celebrating International Women’s Day. Today is a special day, when we celebrate and remember the achievements of all the many great women who have had a profound impact on our lives. Importantly, it is also a day when we must challenge the many wrongs which so many women both in Ireland and across the globe are forced to face.

While every achievement towards equality is to be celebrated, there can be no doubt that women suffered disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any reflection on the COVID period must address that fact.

Most seriously of all there was an escalation in violence against women, particularly domestic violence, during the period of the COVID pandemic. For instance, calls to Gardaí regarding domestic violence increased by 25% during lockdowns while calls to the Women’s Aid helpline increased by over 40%. These are central issues which must be looked at in any review of the COVID experience, while every effort must continue to be made to address the sources and causes of domestic and sexual violence against women.

It is matter for the greatest concern that so many of the social spaces, and places of public recreation have become characterised by aggression and misogyny.  The absence of regulation and accountability in relation to social media continues to have a particularly negative effect on women. Technological change has moved at a faster pace than protections for citizens. While technology has brought very significant gains, and this must be acknowledged, there are glaring gaps and new challenges opening up which must be tackled.

While each of these issues must be addressed, there is also the need for the appropriate dissemination of basic information regarding sexuality in the fullest sense, by those responsible for providing education.  The requirement for respect to be shown, and the right for it to be experienced, should be available to all.  It is necessary that it be taught, encouraged, and its absence sanctioned.

On this International Women’s Day, let us reaffirm our collective commitment to building an Ireland in which all of our women citizens can participate fully and can thrive to their highest potential, free from violence and discrimination.”