The Irish public is expected to go to the polls later this year to vote on removing an 'outdated' provision on women's rights.
The Cabinet has decided to back a referendum on repealing Article 41.2 of the Irish Constitution, the article which refers to a women’s life and duties in the home.
Article 41.2 recognises the specific contribution of women in the home, and obliges the State to ‘endeavour’ to support mothers not to have to work outside the home.
Over the years the article has been seen as a sexist and contentious provision due to its patriarchal and stereotyping nature:
At present, the Constitution reads:
41.2.1 “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”.
41.2.2 “The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.
Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan said the time is right to repeal Article 41.2.
He said: “In this – the centenary year of the extension of voting rights to women – the Government believes it is an appropriate time to propose the deletion of Article 41.2 and to use the opportunity of the referendum to have a public debate about gender equality in Ireland.
“Over 80 years after the Constitution was formally adopted, it is clear that Article 41.2 has no place in our Constitution. It undermines today’s goal to achieve real gender equality by ensuring women have real choices about what to do with their lives.”
However, the complete removal of the article without replacement text has sparked debate. Some members of the Oireachtas women’s caucus have called for an amendment rather than a repeal in order to recognise the role of carers.
Chair of the caucus Catherine Martin TD told TheJournal.ie: “Nobody could argue that the current provision is not sexist, and therefore needs to change. However, it would be a missed opportunity and a retrograde step to proceed with a simple deletion rather than amending the provision to recognise the importance of carers in our society.”
The National Women’s Council have welcomed the ‘long-overdue’ referendum.
Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said, “Article 41 fails women, as it does not encompass the reality and diversity of women’s lives. The highly gendered language fails men by not recognising their work as carers, or the duties and responsibilities men have to be carers. Furthermore by only referencing care in the home, it also fails society by not recognising the different types of care, in the community as well as with family members and friends.”
It is believed that the referendum could take place on October 25th. This would coincide with the vote to remove of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution and the Presidential Election.