The Irish Women's Liberation Movement

Top ten Irish sexual milestones as they happened


The Irish Women's Liberation Movement

The Irish have endured a long history of sexual repression. Up until 1993, it was illegal to be a homosexual in Ireland, and family planning did not begin until the late 1970s. Imports and sales of contraceptives had been banned since 1935 but luckily today, contraceptives are now widely available. Here’s a brief rundown of the course of Irish sexual history.

1. 1885

Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 criminalizes homosexual acts between men. No legislation exists criminalising homosexual acts between women.

2. July 1929

The Censorship of Publications Act 1929 is enacted. The Act prohibits selling, publishing, distributing or importing any publication that relates to contraception or abortion.

3. February 1946

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1935 is enacted. The Act prohibits the sale, importation and advertising of any contraceptive. However, the Act does not specifically prohibit the use of contraceptives. The Act also makes it a crime to have "unlawful carnal knowledge" with girls under the age of 17, thereby raising the age of consent to sex from 16 to 17.

4. 1963

Pharmaceutical companies succeed in introducing the contraceptive pill in Ireland as a menstruation cycle regulator.

5. March 1969

The Fertility Guidance Company Ltd (later to change its name to the IFPA) is established in Merrion Square Dublin 1. It is Ireland's first family planning clinic. The organization sidesteps the law by providing contraceptives for free and clients then making a "donation."

6. May 1971

Members of the Irish Women's Liberation Movement travel by train to Belfast to purchase contraceptives. On their return to Dublin they challenge the customs officers at Connolly Train station to arrest them for illegal importation. The customs officers allow the women to pass.

7. December 1971

Three members of the Education Committee of the Fertility Guidance Company publish Family Planning - A Guide for Parents and Prospective Parents. Huge demand for the book necessitates two further printings.

8. November 1976

The Censorship Boards bans the IFPA family planning guidebook, originally published in 1971 and well into its second printing.

9. July 1979

Health (Family Planning) Act 1979 is enacted under Charles Haughey, Minister for Health. The Act legalizes contraception but specifies that contraception, including condoms, are only available on prescription from a doctor and the doctor must be satisfied that the person is seeking the contraceptives for bona fide family planning purposes. This is largely interpreted to mean that only married couples are legally entitled to access contraception.

10. July 1993

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 is enacted. The Act decriminalises consensual homosexual acts between adults.

Source: The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA)


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