WOMEN’S support groups in Tyrone have slammed a new policy which requires rape victims to recount their ordeal as “inhumane and degrading.”
Mothers will have their tax credits capped at two children under British Government welfare reforms – unless they can prove that further offspring were a result of rape.
After debating the issue at its monthly meeting on Tuesday night, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has decided to write to the Human Rights Commission and the Secretary of State to voice its concerns over the issue. The manager of Omagh Women’s Aid, Orla Conway, also described the requirement as “barbaric.”
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking that a requirement like this so-called ‘rape clause’ should even have been considered,” she said.
“The fact that women would have to disclose to someone such intimate details about something as traumatising as a rape in order to gain tax credits is inhumane and totally degrading.”
Women’s Aid in Northern Ireland, Rape Crisis in Scotland and many charities have all said that they will not be involved in any measures required to implement the clause.
Bernadette McAliskey, manager of the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme, said it “defied belief” that women traumatised by rape would face a process of re-traumatisation.
“This clause is so lacking in any humanity. It is such a cold and calculating measure based on a financial transaction on a page and takes no account of the humanity of the women involved.
“This clause harks back to the time when I was a child and ‘the Welfare man’ came around to check the children’s clothes to see if a mother should be granted a winter grant to buy warm clothes for the winter.
“We are now going to have a situation where woman are going to have to tell their private sexual business and traumas to a welfare person. While the politicians up on the hill at Stormont pretend that others are to blame, a scorched earth policy is being operated below.”
For now, the changes will only apply to families with children born after April 6 2017.