Politicians have been urged to strengthen legislation to help protect Roma and Traveller women who are at risk of domestic and sexual violence.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality recently to discuss the limitations of existing laws, Tessa Collins of Pavee Point’s Violence Against Women Programme said women from Roma and Traveller communities need to be prioritised.
“Domestic and sexual violence affect all communities regardless of ethnic or social background. However, Trav-eller and Roma women have great difficulties in seeking help and protection,” said the community development worker.
Some of the reasons Pavee Point gave for these difficulties are due to persistent discrimination and racism that the communities experience.
“On one hand, this makes Traveller and Roma women vulnerable to abuse, including prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation,” said Collins. “On the other, this creates significant barriers to accessing and engaging in services and protections.”
According to programme co-ordinator Laura Pohjolainen, legislation as it stands “leaves little choice for Traveller and Roma women to leave violent relationships or situations.
“The alternative often means that a woman has to face poverty, social isolation and even homelessness.”
Pohjolainen said she hoped that Pavee Point’s engagement with the Oireachtas committee “can result in substantial steps towards progressing national policy and legislation in order to improve the protection of vulnerable Roma and Traveller women and girls.”
Pavee Point says that to achieve this, Government must amend the Habitual Residence Condition and develop an adequate national integration strategy for the Traveller and Roma communities, as well as signing and ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.