The IRSP Women’s Facebook Page

women

The IRSP Women’s Facebook page is THE focal point for Irish Republican Socialist women to take part in discussions, read archived articles, view videos and post views on a variety of issues affecting women in today’s era of austerity and sexism.  It is a well managed page and although it is mainly female-focused, men are more than welcome to contribute also.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party has a proud history of promoting women’s equality and holds the distinction as being the first party in Ireland back in the early 1970’s to campaign for (and from it’s foundation enshrine in it’s constitution) the implementation of full female reproductive rights, including contraception, divorce and abortion on demand.  At this time, this was virtually unheard of in Ireland.  As with so many of the IRSP’s revolutionary politics, they have always been the most progressive party in the country.  Furthermore, women have always played a leading role in the Irish Republican Socialist Movement and many including INLA Volunteers Miriam Daly and Mary McGlinchey paid the ultimate price for their opposition to British imperialism.

Check the IRSP Women’s Page out here via this LINK!  Although it is an IRSP page, all progressives are welcome.  Feel free to visit and find out more about the IRSP’s politics and in Facebook parlance, give it a ‘Like!’  Below is a presumably early IRSP pamphlet and well worth a read:

 

Women In Ireland-IRSP Pamphlet Reprint

(The author and original date of publication of this historical IRSP document is unknown, but it was part of a series of pamphlets produced by the IRSP to give the working class of Ireland a clear vision of the IRSP’s policies.)


“…The first class opposition that occurs in history coincides with the development of antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male.” (F. Engels: The Origin of the Family)


The oppression of women is thus directly linked with the institution of the family which emerged for the first time when there was an economic surplus in society, thus creating a material basis for class exploitation. The family became a unit of consumption, a vehicle of inheritance and a means of socialising children into the system.

The management of the family was no longer a public concern, and so the wife’s production became ‘private’, not recognised as socially necessary labour, ie. giving birth to a man’s children and looking after his house, while doing so increasingly in isolation from other wonen. Hence regardless of her status in wider society, within the family, the women’s relationship to the man became one or exploited to exploiter.


IMPERIALISM

British imperialism in setting up the sectarian statelet in the six counties and through partition, has deliberately fostered sectarianism amongst the working class and fragmented the women’s movement into those who are actively involved in or support the national liberation struggle and those who are pro-imperialist.


ROLE OF THE CHURCH

The church, particularly the Catholic Church, has continually taught that a woman’s main role in life is to marry, have children and stay in the home. Women are seen in the image of the Virgin Mary – pure, and that the sexual act inside marriage is for procreation and not to be enjoyed. Women are positively discouraged from seeing themselves as having their own identity and their own sexual needs. This view reflects itself in the Church’s total opposition to contraception, abortion and divorce and to women working.


CONTRACEPTION

Contraception is now available throughout Ireland from family-planning clinics but the moralising attitude of medical staff and the unnecessary prying questions into one’s sexual habits, prevents many young people from using these facilities. The entire process becomes very humiliating when, not only the clinics, but many family doctors agree firmly with the Catholic stance and refuse to prescribe any form of contraception. When it comes to sterilisation, a wife must have her husband’s written consent before the authorities will perform the operation – the implication being that she is his property.


ABORTION

In the six counties, abortion is illegal except on strict medical grounds, when a mother’s life is in danger or when the child will be deformed. In the twenty-six counties abortion is illegal. It is also illegal to give advice on how to obtain an abortion and at present there are court cases pending against various groups who are giving advice an abortion. A vigorous campaign has also been mounted (DEFEND THE CLINICS) to defend the right to freely give out information on abortion.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion or not.

The I.R.S.P. supports the Defend the Clinics campaign for the right to freely give out information on abortion.


DIVORCE

In the 26 counties, divorce is unobtainable, yet another example of the indivisibilty of the Church and State. In the six counties, even with the opposition of the churches, the right to divorce exists, after two yeers with both couple’s mutual consent, or after five years without mutual consent.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports the campaign for the introduction of the right to divorce.


WORK

The Equal Pay Act has had much less impact here than originally expected. Women have traditionally been employed in “women’s work” like clothing factories, cooking, cleaning, typing, etc., so it is almost impossible for a woman to say she is paid less than a man for the same work as this situation rarely exists. Many women find they can’t make ends meet on social security and they’re forced to take on jobs without disclosing this to the DHSS ‘doing the double’. This always results in bad working conditions, low wages and the risk of being sacked at a moment’s notice.

This type-casting of women is reflected in the family and in particular in the education system where boys are steered towards science, metal-work, woodwork and are encouraged to continue their education. Girls on the other hand are trained to prepare themselves for their future lives as wives and mothers and are given no encouragement to continue their education.


CHILDCARE

Pre-school child care has been and continues to be grossly inadequate in Ireland. There are only four day-care nurseries in the six counties and places are few and far between and usually cater for what they call ‘problem families’. Play-groups exist in most areas, but the majority of these are only morning or afternoon care for any one child. This does not suit a working mother.

The I.R.S.P. supports the demand for the provision of free childcare facilities for all those who wish to avail themselves of it.


HEALTH

The recent government cutbacks in health, both north and south, have had detrimental effects on women’s health. Cervical cancer which relies on early detection through regular smears is on the increase, due to long delays in getting results back and long waiting lists for hospital appointments. Breast scanning facilities are almost non-existent. Addiction to nerve tablets is on the increase with doctors prescribing Valium as a cure for all ills.

The I.R.S.P. is actively involved in the campaign against the cutbacks and against increasing government privatisation of health care.


RAPE

Society has created many myths surrounding rape such as: rape is due to sudden uncontrollable sexual urges unleashed in men by the slight of a provocatively dressed woman; no woman can be raped against her will; ‘women secretly enjoy it’.

Rape is a violent crime often carried out under threat of, if not actual use of force, such as beating, maiming and the murder of victims. 90% of all rapes are planned in advance. Rape is man’s physical expression of his power to dominate women. The victim is humiliated in court and made to feel that she is on trial, her own private sex life will be displayed to the court. Many judges openly sympathise with the rapist, illustrated by the nominal sentences handed out, often less than a motoring offense. Because of the way women are degraded by the courts, many women will suffer rape and not report it, and so the official figures on rape are considered by many to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The image propagated by the capitalist media and the widespread distribution of pornographic literature increases the view of women as sexual objects to be ‘had’ and ‘conquered’. On a wider level it is a reflection of the wider use of repressive values in the capitalist system to make the man/woman relationship one of domination and not of equality.

The I.R.S.P. supports the demand that sentences for rapists should reflect the serious nature of the crime.


STRIP SEARCHING

Since 1982, when strip-searching was introduced for women prisoners, on the pretext of security, there have been over 3,500 strip-searches. A strip-search entails a prisoner removing all her clothes and having her body inspected in full view of prison staff. Sanitary towels must also be removed. Refusal to comply results in beatings and the forcible removal of clothing. Nothing of any consequence has ever been found a prisoner and its sole purpose is to degrade and humiliate the women prisoners.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports the campaign to end the degrading practice of strip-searching.


SEXUALITY

We believe in a woman’s right to define her own sexuality, either as a lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual. Lesbians experience discrimination especially in areas of child-custody, where a lesbian must often face a really hard legal battle for her children. She also faces the possibility of losing her job if she works in such areas as teaching or nursing.

The I.R.S.P. demands an end to discrimination against lesbians and a recognition that women have a right to define their own sexuality.

 

Alex McGuigan

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