Stone Age attitudes to rape among NI students

Here’s a shaming story about social attitudes. A new poll by Amnesty International suggests that “almost half (46%) of Northern Ireland university students believe that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped if she has behaved in a flirtatious manner.” I’d hoped at first that the poll was a bit of PTQ-type messing about with answering poll questions perversely but sadly, reading the detail, it wasn’t. The latest similar poll in the Republic wasn’t much more enlightened. The Irish Examiner /Red C poll earlier this year found that about one in four people agree that women are in some way responsible for being attacked.
As outrage about many social attitudes has become their regular stance, I look forward to a good blast of condemnation about these pathetic opinions from the Belfast Telegraph, which ran this small par that looked like a straight lift, with its unsubbed reference to ” the north.”
For today, comment was left to the Guardian, where Fiona Meredith observed: “The strangest thing is the deafening silence on these issues from Northern Ireland women themselves. Why do we seemingly accept the brutish attitudes, the lack of support services, the absence of basic rights? Perhaps it’s because we have no place to find a collective voice. Tribalism has successfully divided us from one another, thrown rigid barriers across potential areas of common ground.”
The Women political links in NI blog might help if it got busier. Alas the chance of a paradigm shift in attitudes to women will almost certainly be avoided later this month. An amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill before Westminster to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to NI. is needless to say opposed by all the NI parties, but backed by a Family Planning Association campaign. is unlikely to be selected for debate and therefore for a vote. It reminds me of Westminster’s turning the blind eye to NI in the sixties, when political involvement by the “Sovereign Parliament” just might have averted the Troubles. Sadly the Belfast Telegraph is on the wrong side on abortion reform, but that shouldn’t deter them from condemning the attitudes to rape. Rape crisis needs all the help it can get.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London