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What Is The ‘Women’s Place In The Home’ Debate All About?

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Government plans to hold a referendum in October to remove a constitutional reference on the women’s place in the home have been scuppered by an Oireachtas committee, who want more time to debate the issue.
Here’s what the existing article states:

 

  1. 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.

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.

TDs have requested more time to debate what question should be put to the people, including whether a gender neutral clause should be inserted into the Constitution in its place.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who has been championing the deletion of the article (41.2), said: “The Constitution doesn’t seek to define the place of men. I believe it should not seek to define the place of women.”

While the intention was a noble one, calls for more time to reflect on the amendment came from a number of women’s rights groups, including the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI). A straightforward deletion was felt to be a missed opportunity to tackle some of the issues facing parents, and women in particular, such as maternity leave, affordable childcare and caring for others in the home.

 

There is a danger of it becoming divisive – between people dedicated to working in the home and those who work inside and outside it

 

Fresh opportunity for real change

Speaking to The Irish Times, Orla O’ Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland said,

“If we do not allow enough time for a transparent, participative and respectful process that recognises people’s complex feelings and identities, there is a danger of it becoming divisive – between people dedicated to working in the home and those who work inside and outside the home; divisive between those who do unpaid work that contributes to society and those who do paid work; and divisive between families and between women and men who work in the home.”

“This will mean considering issues that the National Women’s Council of Ireland has long campaigned on – providing comprehensive family leave, including maternity leave, paid paternity leave and a period of well-paid parental leave; investing in publicly subsidised, quality, affordable childcare; providing recognition for care through a universal pension system.”

“If we listen more than we talk, our decisions will reflect our consideration of others as well as our hopes for ourselves and the kind of Ireland that we want to live in.”

What next?

It is thought that the referendum will now be pushed out until May 2019, to tie in with local elections. In the meantime, the government will begin work in the coming weeks on the establishment of a Citizens Assembly to produce recommendations on replacement wording or deletion of the article, and is calling on ‘stakeholders’ to submit their views.

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