From Ann Lovett to baby Maria, Irish girls don't have a lot to celebrate today 2 years ago

From Ann Lovett to baby Maria, Irish girls don't have a lot to celebrate today

In 1984, 15-year-old Ann Lovett died at the foot of a statute of Mary in Longford.

Ann had hidden her pregnancy for months and she gave birth to a baby boy alone and no doubt terrified. Both Ann and the baby died on the same day. The official cause of death was a postpartum hemorrhage (bleeding to death after birth), but what Ann really died of was apathy, shame and misogyny.

The Ireland Ann grew up in was still firmly in the grip of the Catholic Church, a religion that has rarely done any favours to women and girls.

Sex education was minimal if it was available at all and to have an unmarried daughter or a teenage pregnancy was one of the most shameful acts of all. Sexual abuse of children was widespread and covered up by both Church officials, teachers and the gardaí.

That was 33 years ago, however, and Ireland has surely moved on right?

Last year, one-day old baby Maria was abandoned in Rathcoole in Dublin. A Garda source said at the time that they were searching for the mother: "She has nothing to fear - we are concerned for her well-being and understand that she may still be traumatised and afraid.

"We are conscious that she may require medical and psychological support - any help she needs will be provided."

Who can blame the mother for not coming forward? The Irish State has given girls and woman very little reason to trust that they have their best interests in mind. Most students are denied accurate and detailed sex education and the bodies of women and girls in Ireland are policed in some of the most extreme ways  in the world.

Baby Maria who was abandoned in Rathcoole, Co Dublin. Baby Maria who was abandoned in Rathcoole, Co Dublin.

Three years ago, Ms Y - a teenage girl pregnant as a result of gang rape - requested an abortion. She informed her medical team of her plans to kill herself if she wasn't allowed to end the pregnancy.

Ms Y agreed to be detained in hospital after she was told she would be forcibly detained if she didn't agree. Still determined to take her life rather than give birth she went on a hunger strike, refusing food and water.

The HSE applied to the court for a court order to sedate Ms Y and force feed her. Intramuscular steroids were administered without Ms Y's consent and she was given a caesarean section to deliver the baby at 26 weeks gestation.

In June this year, the Child Care Law Reporting Project raised the case of a teenage girl who was detained under the Mental Health Act and refused an abortion despite being suicidal.

The girl and her mother believed they were being transferred to Dublin for a termination but instead the girl was detained in a Mental Health Unit.

The consultant psychiatrist who was responsible for the girl being admitted to the unit said a termination was: "Not the solution for all the child’s problems."

A second psychiatrist found no evidence of a psychological disorder and the girl was released.

Earlier this year, light was shed on the 796 babies who died at the Bon Secours Tuam Mothers And Babies home from the 1920s to the 1960s. Desperate, terrified women arrived at the doors of those nuns pregnant... but rarely - if ever - did they leave with their babies.

But then, let's not forget that the condescending and controlling treatment of girls in Ireland has its very roots in the Constitution. Article 41.2.1 of Bunreacht na hÉireann states that:

"The State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.
"The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."

Misogyny is built into the foundations of the Irish State. Women are not to be obliged to, "engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."

The constitution seeks to confine women to the domestic sphere and the 8th amendment denies girls and women human rights and body autonomy.

There has been widespread condemnation of Ireland's treatment of women and girls. The UN Committee on the Rights Of The Child reported in 2016 on Ireland's girls. The report expressed concerns about how Irish abortion laws deny the human rights of adolescent girls and stated that access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services must be put in place for all adolescent girls.

It's International Day Of The Girl today and for Irish girls there isn't a lot to celebrate.

As my 14 year old daughter said" "We just want the same rights boys have. No one is telling them they have to have a baby or that their place is in the home."