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Legislation

After activist Gina Martin campaigned for 'upskirting' to become illegal in England this year, Ireland looks set to follow suit.

According to the Journal, revenge porn is to be outlawed under new amendments to legislation which are expected to be approved by Cabinet.

Upskirting takes place when a person takes a photograph under the clothes of another without consent being granted. The changes in the legislation will also provide for a separate offence to punish those involved in this image-based crime.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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When upskirting in the UK was officially criminalised this February, Gina Martin posted;

"18 months ago a man stuck his hand between my legs and took photos of my crotch without my consent. 18 months ago I decided I wasn't going to brush sexual assault off anymore. 18 months ago I discovered it wasn't sexual offence and decided I was going to try and change the law for all of us." 

Now, it's Ireland's turn. The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill, which provides for a six-month prison sentence when a person is convicted, was put forward back in 2017 and is based on a Law Reform Commission report.

The report recommends the outlawing of two kinds of incidents: one which forbids the posting online of explicit images without consent, the other which will prevent secretly filming or photographing people in a sexualised manner without consent, i.e. ‘upskirting’ and ‘down-blousing’.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will seek government approval today to draft amendments to the Bill.

'Revenge porn' laws in Ireland mark us out as regressive and archaic, and Labour leader Brendan Howlin agrees. 

Howlin has previously said one of the aspects of the digital age is the increase in occasions where private images taken while in an intimate relationship are posted online following a break-up.

“They use images gathered during that relationship to harm their former partner by posting intimate, lewd images that were meant for an intimate couple online. It is totally unacceptable,” he said. New Zealand, Australia and now the UK have laws ahead of ours.

The legislative move comes just a few months after gardaí were informed by more than two women that their explicit photographs have been posted online without their consent. 

The forum on Reddit which displayed nude and clothed images of Irish women, called 'Irish Sluts', shared without their consent was later shut down

Harassment offences will now include any form of communication, including digital and online comments about another person.

Social media and technology laws are in dire need of modernising, and existing regulation must be brought up to date regarding activities on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram messenger and Whatsapp.

Image credit: theconversation.com

The existing offence of sending threatening or indecent messages will now expand to include all obscene messages using any form of digital communication.

The specific offence of stalking (in the 1997 Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act) will also be referred to under the new laws.

The Office of Parliamentary Counsel will start drafting the government amendments to the Bill in order for it to advance to Committee Stage in the Dáil soon.

We, for one, are absolutely delighted. It's been a long time coming.

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If you're a serial voucher giver or have a collection of them – listen up.

The Government has given the nod for new legislation which will require all gift vouchers to have an expiry date of at least five years.

The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 is expected to be passed early next year. 

Addressing the matter, TD Heather Humphreys said: "Every year consumers lose out because their gift vouchers go out of date."

"Part of the problem is the great variation on expiry dates which can range from as little as six months to 12 months to 24 months."

"This often leads to confusion amongst consumers. By having a set five-year expiry date on all gift vouchers, we will provide certainty to everyone involved," added the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

The Bill will also include two conditions, the first means you and I will no longer have to spend that voucher all in one go.

And the second will tackle the cancellation of the gift card if the receivers name is spelt incorrectly, and a charge to amend the name will also be abolished.

Commenting on the provisions, the Minister said: "It’s wrong that consumers should have to spend a voucher in full in one transaction."

"Similarly, it isn’t fair that businesses can penalise consumers simply because of a wrong letter in a name."

"I’m glad that these two issues were brought to my attention during the public consultation so that we can now address them as part of this Bill," she added.

The Bill received cross-party support.

We for one are delighted with the new measures.

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Amid shutdowns in commercial surrogacy programmes in some of Europe's most notable destinations, parents from abroad are turning their hopeful eyes to Ukraine. Would you?

While it’s rarely the first choice of any hopeful family, surrogacy can sometimes be the last viable option available to couples in need.

While contemporary medicine has be able to address a myriad of infertility issues, there are still some that are insurmountable. Leaving parents in need with few options.

Surrogacy is a hot debate in the media right now and has been for at least the last decade. Few countries have ideal legislation concerning the practice while others outright ban it.

Countries that were prominent for commercial surrogacy practices, such as India, Thailand, and Nepal, have closed extra national programmes due to reports of exploitation.

So where does that leave parents hoping to secure the future of their families? “Most of our clients are heartbroken when they come to us,” a spokesperson for a prominent multinational surrogacy company explains.

“Surrogacy is rarely anyone’s first choice, and the faith that the process requires is monumental.”

Dr. Rashmed Tounsend, has been working with the Valencia based company Ilaya since it’s advent in 2011. Ilaya services Ukraine surrogacy programmes but operates out of Spain.

“I think that most couples would prefer to work with a surrogate that was local to their home country, but due to legislation and cost, that option is largely unavailable to them," Tounsend tells us.

Ukraine has seen a surge in their surrogacy numbers since larger countries have been forced to ban the practice, but booming business hasn’t been enough to curb some couples concerns about exploitation and treatment of surrogate mothers.

Following the terrifying reports of the exploitative practices of surrogacy industry leaders, many intended parents hesitate to look abroad for their possible options. However, many are left with no choice.

With the rising costs of surrogacy programmes at home, or strict laws that don’t allow for a reliable avenue to pursue such procedures, families aren’t given many options.

The average cost for a surrogacy program in the US starts at around $90,000. Prices continue to rise should patients require multiple IVF attempts or run into other complications.

And that’s only if you live in a state where surrogacy is legal. “Couples from states that do not allow for surrogacy can see an increase in their total costs due to travel arrangements and necessities.” Tounsend reminds us.

For families from such countries as the UK or Australia, travelling to a country like the U.S. for surrogacy is completely out of the question, due to financial constraints.

This leaves these families searching for options that are closer and much less costly. “Ukraine then becomes a much more viable option, because it’s located in mainland Europe, so no specialised visas are required for travel.” Tounsend says.

Flights from the UK to mainland Europe can be obtained at a fraction of the cost of those to the US.

Surrogacy: The Only Choice for Some

Surrogacy in the Ukraine has been strictly regulated since 2000. Laws outlining the rights of intended parents, as well as setting parameters for who is eligible to become a surrogate, were set in place.

Largely due to this legislation, as well as having high standards for medical care, saw Ukraine sweeping up many families who were looking to secure a surrogate outside of their home country. However, these laws can be difficult to regulate properly.

There have been reports for surrogate mothers receiving less than ideal medical care, and being victims of obvious malpractice. One report mentions mothers being treated “like cattle” and mocked by doctors.

While officials stress that this is not the norm, whispers of malpractice and embryo swapping have also been heard, although are still unfounded as of yet.

While it may not be an easy choice to make for many couples, it is one that has provided positive results for many.

Health experts in Ukraine estimate that there are over 2,500 babies born to surrogates each year in their country, which makes them familiar with the practice.

They also offer novel medical techniques and incentives that are not seen in other countries, like an unlimited number of IVF attempts, and no age restrictions regarding gamete supplication from intended parents.

Surrogate mothers that are found eligible are set to earn well above what would be expected from a Ukrainian minimum wage.

However, commercial surrogacy abroad is still not risk free, and hopeful parents are urged to do thorough research before choosing a clinic to continue the procedure with.

Which continues to make the choice a difficult one for families who worry about more than just the financial costs of surrogacy.

“Ukraine surrogacy is just one of the options that we offer prospective parents. There are other avenues available to some couples.

While it’s not the first choice for many, it’s a choice that our clients are extremely satisfied with in the end. Ultimately, our goal is to provide safety and happiness to our clients and our surrogate mothers.

Whatever avenue is the best for all parties involved, is the one we pursue.” Tounsend says.

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Minister for Health Simon Harris will draft legislation for the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment. 

The legislation will include provision for abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks, as per the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee

He intends to have a draft published by late March. 

'Whether the Eighth Amendment is in our Constitution, or indeed not in our Constitution, abortion is a reality for Irish women,' he said, speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

'I cannot close my eyes and block my ears to the fact that 3,265 of our citizens travelled to the UK in 2016 from every county in Ireland.'

'I cannot stand over a situation where the abortion pill is illegally accessed in this country and women, perhaps in the privacy of their own bedroom, in a lonely isolated place, [are] taking a pill without any medical supervision.'

He did not provide the date of the intended referendum. 

However, after a special Cabinet meeting last night, it was announced that a referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution will be held in late May or early June. 

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In a move which has made history, Iceland has become the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women.

It has been established that the new legislation, which came into force on Monday, will make it necessary for companies and government agencies with more than 25 employees to obtain government certification for their equal-pay policies.

Failure to comply with the legislation, which represents the country's mission to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022, will result in monetary fines.

Board member of the Icelandic Women's Rights Association, Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, elaborated on the new system, saying: "It's a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally."

"We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap."

"Women have been talking about this for decades and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more," Pind added.

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Legislation which would decriminalise all acts of domestic violence, excluding rape and serious bodily harm, is currently making its way through parliament in Russia.

Having already passed one reading in the lower house of the Russian parliament, the measure will likely become law if it is passed at a second reading on Wednesday.

The measure must go through a third reading in addition to a final reading in the upper house, however these particular readings are generally considered little more than formalities.

Commenting on the controversy stemming from the proposed legislation, Russian expert, Yulia Gorbunova of Human Rights Watch, appealed to lawmakers to consider the risks associated with passing the law.

"Passage of this law would be a huge step backward for Russia, where victims of domestic violence already face enormous obstacles to getting help or justice," she said.

"The domestic violence bill would reduce penalties for abusers and put victims’ lives at even greater risk," she added,

As it stands, domestic battery in Russia is punishable by two years imprisonment, but this is rarely enforced.

Should the controversial law be passed over the coming weeks, battering a spouse will only become punishable by either a fine of less than $500, a nominal 15 days of 'administrative arrest', or community service.

40 women in Russia die every day at the hands of their spouse which equates with a staggering 14,000 women every year.

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