Ireland: The Armpit of Europe

So, you think Ireland’s all progressive because the country legalized gay marriage? Do your research. Google the name Savita Halappanavar, the date contraception became legal in Ireland, what a symphysiotomy is, and Magdalene Asylums… now tell us how progressive Ireland is? Let’s not lose sight of the fact that girls and women have little to no reproductive rights in Ireland. While you celebrate the victory of gay marriage, keep in mind that women still die in childbirth, or due to related complications, in this western European country. Ireland’s just not an embarrassment to Europe, but to Western Civilization.

Why and how could Ireland be so progressive in regards to gays but not women? I’ve mentioned my Catholic school experience in a previous blog. About half of the monastery, the monastery of the high school I attended, was gay.¹ If my anecdotal account is correct, and according to actual polls it is, the Catholic Church has a significant percentage of gay clergy. Despite the organization’s professed homophobia, it has always been a closet of sorts. It behooves the Catholic Church, and its theocracy that is Ireland, to finally accept homosexuality as a natural orientation. And you can bet they’re going to make a big, righteous show of it to detract from their previous Nazi pope, as well obfuscate the fact that girls and women are lower than second class citizens.

Women are incubators, just natural resources not only to the cult of the Catholic Church, but pretty much all religions and cultures.  Everyone wins rights before women. This is due to the fact that every culture, every country, every religion on this planet is patriarchal. The holocaust that was the Magdalene Asylums reveals that even women – women who self-righteously fancy themselves better or exceptions –  partake in rampant misogyny and abuse of girls and women. Until the 1990’s, symphysiotomies – the Catholic response to C-sections – were performed on women by doctors without consent. Basically, men hacked women’s pelvises apart to pull the mother’s fetus out. The average American is unaware that much of this horror occurred just twenty odd years ago in a western country. The average Catholic doesn’t believe it unless you put the facts right in their face.

It’s great progress that Ireland recognizes gay marriage and the LGBT community, but this country has almost a century to catch up when it comes to women’s rights. It is time that the LGBT community and all groups stand up and with women. There’s nothing wrong with me stating this just as there was nothing politically incorrect when Patricia Arquette called for this. Even in American culture, misogyny so deeply rooted, the media at large resorts to grossly taking a woman’s words out of context, making fallacious, convoluted wordplay. Historically, women – women of all cultures, ethnicities, classes – have fought for rights of sentient life. From animal rights to civil rights, women have been solidly at the grass-roots level. Everybody knows this. First wave feminists – Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Susan B. Anthony – knew that women’s rights are a part of civil rights. Everyone’s rights matter. Everyone’s rights are connected.

In January of 2010, Human Rights Watch published,  A State of Isolation:  Access to Abortion for Women in Ireland (http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/ireland0110webwcover.pdf), finding Ireland in direct violation of human rights. All forms of contraception were illegal until 1978. However, until 1985, condoms and spermicide were only legal with a prescription. The Irish medical establishment is as much to blame as clergy, many doctors prescribed forms of contraception only to married couples. Access to oral contraception wasn’t on par with that of the United States until The Health Act (Family Planning Amendment) of 1992. This is when single women could obtain prescriptions for birth-control. Previously, doctors could withhold prescriptions based solely on their religious beliefs and dogma. Yes, the marriage equality vote is a good thing for Ireland. But Ireland doesn’t get to call itself progressive or first world until they decriminalize abortion and provide women’s health clinics.

Earlier this year, I flew to Ireland from Germany. My sister currently lives in Germany; I got to see a bit of the Bavarian region of Germany and Austria. My only reason to visit Ireland was to meet my pen pal and good friend, a French student studying at the University of Cork. I arrived in Ireland the day after “St. Patrick’s Day” to a hung over country, filthy and dismal. From Dublin to Cork, I wasn’t impressed. Whether due to the depressed economy or theocracy, I found the place gross and unsettling. I noticed more teen pregnancies than Mississippi, the state over from mine. In fact, visiting Ireland was a blatant reminder that the American South is largely more progressive than this country.  The majority of the Irish, outside of the university, looked worn, sad or angry. From the bus ride to Cork, to the plane ride back into Germany, Ireland felt like a heavy cloak of despair. German never sounded so beautiful as it did when I found myself surrounded by it again. The stark contrasts between the two countries is telling.  Ireland’s dismal example of a misogynistic theocracy in contrast to a healthy agnostic, secular society makes a compelling case for progressivism and secular society. Germany, as well as the rest of secularized Western Europe, doesn’t have the teen pregnancy, economic or social problems of Ireland.

I’ll close with my Twitter sentiments:

So, Ireland, you’re halfway in the 21st century… good for recognizing gay rights. Now how about you get on board with women? ‪#‎hypocrisy‬ Ireland, women are sentient, autonomous individuals. Even the majority of the American South recognizes women’s personal autonomy; we have abortion clinics here. Here’s the thing about rights: they’re inherent, innate, inalienable. You don’t get to vote them into existence. ‪#‎whatiswrongwithhumanity‬

notes/references:

¹ The homosexuality in the monastery was actually tolerated; students and parents alike knew. In the 1990’s, this caused quite a scandal when a student and monk conducted an illicit affair. I was one of the witnesses taken from campus by the The Department of Human Resources and city police. St. Bernard Preparatory, the high school, still operates today in the locally infamous town of Cullman, Alabama. Wikipedia quotes statistics from media sources and social scientists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_Roman_Catholic_priests

symphysiotomy:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/12/symphysiotomy-irelands-brutal-alternative-to-caesareans

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphysiotomy

http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/30/europe/ireland-symphysiotomy/

Savita Halappanavar:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/13/savita-halappanavar-report-ireland-abortion_n_3434769.html

women’s heath/reproductive rights:

http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2012/11/reproductive-rights-in-irish-law-a-beginners-guide/

https://www.ifpa.ie/Media-Info/History-of-Sexual-Health-in-Ireland

Magdalene asylums/laundries:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sidonie-sawyer/-the-true-scandal-of-the-_b_4509415.html

http://www.phillymag.com/articles/woman-exposed-ireland-magdalene-laundries-asylum/

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29307705

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalene_asylum