Many NCR readers may remember the 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters, which tells the largely unknown story of Irish women who were forced to labor in laundries for breaking Catholic Ireland's strict sexual codes. In most cases, these women were caught giving birth out of wedlock.
It is estimated that more than 30,000 women were sentenced to work in these laundries, which were run by orders of women religious. The conditions were harsh, and many survivors recount stories of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Though the Irish government denies having a role in these private run laundries, there is evidence that state officials routinely sentenced women offenders to the laundries. Records also indicate that the nuns were given lucrative government contracts to support these programs.
For two years, the advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes has lobbied the Irish government to investigate the laundries, but to no avail.