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Lisbon Treaty & Women

05 June 2008

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: Since everyone has been mentioning the Lisbon treaty this morning, with Senators on the Independent benches coming out of the closet to indicate the way they shall be voting, I declare that I shall be voting “Yes” . I note with concern, however, that a commentator remarked in the newspapers last week how few prominent women were coming out on the “Yes” side. This is yet another indictment of the very poor pro-treaty campaign being run by the Government. The strongest arguments in favour of the “Yes” position have come from the Opposition. The Government needs to be doing much more in the last few days of the campaign, in particular, putting women forward to argue for the “Yes” side, because they comprise a large group of undecided voters at this point.

Senator de Búrca commented on the odds in favour of the “No” side. I notice one punter placed a bet of €10,000 on the “No” side to win, so let us just hope he or she got it wrong. We do not know whether it was a sterling bet, of course.

The arguments in favour of the Lisbon treaty are very strong, from a feminist perspective, particularly because of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and also because of what the European Union has done to date in terms of promoting gender equality. That is very important and needs to be put on the record. However, it is also important to stress that the treaty will facilitate further expansion of the EU eastwards. That is something all of us should very much support and be in favour of. It is another reason for supporting the treaty, although I was slightly hesitant in declaring all this because I backed Hilary Clinton and it has been proven this week to be the wrong course, so perhaps I shall not be putting any bets.

On a more serious note I want to ask the Leader for a debate on No. 21 on the Order Paper, a motion which I have table dealing with the issue of genital mutilation. A report has been published by the Women's Health Council of Ireland calling for legislation. It is a literature review which is examining this issue and which is particularly serious for women in developing countries. It is becoming increasingly serious in Europe for women who come here from other countries. Female genital mutilation, or cutting, is a brutal practice, which needs to be outlawed and specifically criminalised, even in European countries. I have been active on a campaign to do that. I have a motion on it before the House and the women's health council is again saying that specific legislation is a necessary, although insufficient element, to counter this barbaric practice in this country.