Unique is one way to describe the history of sex in Ireland. Harmful is another. Let’s take a trip back in time through the most notable aspects affecting LGBT rights and family planning in Ireland.
1533 – King Henry VIII outlaws male-to-male buggery with a penalty of death.
1829 – Buggery laws are adopted by Irish parliament with a continued penalty of death.
1861 – Both women and aids that “procure a miscarriage” are libel to life imprisonment by the Offences Against the Person Act.
1885 – Any homosexual act between men becomes illegal. The penalty is a maximum of two years imprisonment.
1895 – Oscar Wilde is imprisoned with hard labour for homosexual acts.
1929 – Any publication on contraception or abortion is banned.
1935 – The sale of any contraceptive, including condoms, is prohibited by criminal law.
1963 – The National Maternity Hospital advises only the Rhythm method for family planning to married couples. Meanwhile the contraceptive pill is available as a cycle regulator only.
1969 – Ireland’s first family planning clinic opens, and provides contraception legally without sale (for free).
1970 – IUDs become available, having been invented 40 years earlier. The Protestant medical school at Trinity College becomes the first to teach family planning.
1971 – Attempts fail to make legal the sale of contraception.
1973 – The seizure of spermicidal jelly from a woman is deemed unlawful because she is married.
1974 – The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) faces charges of selling contraceptives. Meanwhile the IFPA announces it is performing vasectomies.
1976 – The IFPA guidebook on family planning is banned, but becomes accessible again after a High Court challenge.
1979 – Contraception, including condoms, becomes available by a doctor’s prescription and only for bona fide family planning purposes, ie. for married couples.
1981 – Rape is defined as the common law offence by a man who has penetrative vaginal intercourse with a non-consenting woman. A marital exemption exists, whereby a husband cannot be found guilty for raping his wife.
1983 – The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution passes with 53.7% of votes to read: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother…”. Meanwhile an Irish physician is fined £500 for selling 10 condoms to one patient.
1984 – Multiple newborn babies are found dead. A 15-year-old new mother is also found dead.
1985 – The sale of condoms becomes legal to people aged 18 and older. Meanwhile an injunction is sought to prevent crisis pregnancy counselling services from giving information about abortion.
1988 – David Norris wins a case to deem the criminalisation of homosexual acts a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
1989 – Student groups are prohibited from giving information of abortion services in England in an appeal by the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC).
1990 – A Virgin Record Store is fined £400 for selling condoms without a license. An appeal against the fine is rejected, and in response the fine is increased to £500. The band U2 steps in to pay this fine. Meanwhile the first education video on HIV/AIDS is screened on television.
1992 – The infamous x case, where a 14-year-old girl was banned from travelling to the UK for an abortion after becoming pregnant as a result of rape, is brought to the Supreme Court. Suicide was ruled as grounds for abortion, however Irish lawmakers failed to legislate this right. Condoms become available outside pharmacies but are still restricted to people aged 17 or older.
1993 – Homosexual acts between consenting adults become decriminalised and condoms become deregulated with the goal of preventing HIV transmission. The Unfair Dismissals Act prohibits dismissal on the grounds of sexual orientation.
1995 – Sex education is introduced to secondary schools. Women are allowed to receive information on abortion services out-of-State, but doctors are prohibited from making referrals.
1996 – Same-sex cohabiting relationships become eligible for some safety orders under the Domestic Violence Act. Also refugees are permitted on the basis of fear of persecution because of sexual orientation.
2000 – The Equal Status Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
2002 – The UN criticises Ireland for not adopting a human rights framework, with regards to discrimination and access with health services. A referendum to repeal the right to abortion for the suicidal woman fails.
2004 – The Equality Act offers further protection on the grounds of sexual orientation. Meanwhile the Civil Registration Act bars two men or two women from marrying.
2005 – Condom advertisements are no longer banned on RTE.
2006 – In the KAL case, a lesbian couple married in Canada is rejected marriage benefits in Ireland.
2007 – The lack of recognition of transgender people is found incongruent with the European Convention of Human Rights.
2008 – V.A.T. on condoms is reduced from 21% to 13.5%
2009 – The Ryan report reveals extensive child sexual abuse in Ireland and a culture of self-service secrecy by the Catholic Church and government bodies. Customs official seize over 1,200 medical abortion packets in the mail.
2010 – In the ABC v Ireland case, Ireland is found at fault for failing to legislate the existing constitutional right to lawful abortion when a woman’s life is at risk. No legislation is introduced in response to this ruling. Also a national HPV vaccine programme is rolled out for girls only, while a study finds that 74% of senior students received no sex education in 2009. Sex between men becomes the most common route ofHIV transmission.
2011 – Same-sex civil partnerships begin and same-sex partners are included in immigration and residence laws. The emergency contraceptive pill becomes available over-the-counter from all pharmacies without a prescription. 4,149 women are known to have traveled to the UK for an abortion, the smallest annual number in over a decade.
2012 – Savita Halappanavar dies in a Galway hospital after being denied an abortion for her septic pregnancy. Meanwhile, under the Employment Equality Bill, religious schools and hospitals are exempt from the employment equality law and may legally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 166 men who have sex with men are diagnosed with HIV (the highest annual number yet), and the median age of diagnosis decreases to 32.
2013 – The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act legislates for abortion in narrow circumstances to save the life of the mother. Suicidal women must convince one or more panels of 3 doctors to procure an abortion. Both women and aids that procure an abortion for other reasons are libel to 14 years imprisonment. Transgender people are still without the right to change their legal gender. A referendum on same-sex marriage is announced for 2015.
Mr Gay Europe 2013