Leaflet about March 8 Referenda.

Irish Referendum on Women’s Role in Society

Posted by Speakeasy News > Friday 08 March 2024 > In the News

On International Women's Day 2024, France is including the freedom to have an abortion in its constitution while Ireland is holding a referendum to remove clauses from its constitution which promise the Irish state will do everything it can to allow women to stay in the home.

The Irish constitution was adopted in 1937, in a country that was socially conservative and greatly influenced by the Catholic church.  There have been 32 amendments to the Constitution, and in recent years those have included banning the death penalty (2002), and making legal divorce (1996),  same-sex marriage (2015) and abortion (2018).

Symbolically, on International Women's Day, the country is again being called to the polls for a referendum on two amendments to the constitution concerning the family and the status of women.

The Family amendment wants to remove the reference to marriage in two articles about the importance of families in society, opening the idea of family to "other durable relationships".

The Care Amendment proposes to replace two articles portraying women as essentially housewives :
Article 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.”

Article 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.”

The would be replaced by a new article that is gender neutral but  would still recognise the importance of carers and the state's role in helping them be able to fulfil their role:

“The State recognises that the provision of care, by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them, gives to Society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved, and shall strive to support such provision.”

The new article was proposed by the government rather than following a recommendation of the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality to replace the "women in the home" articles with a gender-neutral one which "obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community."

In an opinion piece in The Guardian last month, Irish journalist Dearbhail McDonald said that while she supported the changes, a change in wording wouldn't necessarily change the reality of life for women, "who make up 98% of full-time carers and 80% of paid carers in Ireland."

If you want to find out more about the referenda texts, the Irish Electoral Commission site has a remarkably clear booklet explaining them.

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