Ireland's Constitution Still Includes Women's 'Duties in the Home'. But Maybe Not for Long.
“Get back in the kitchen.” Yawn.
It’s been just over a month since the Republic of Ireland voted decisively to legalise abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in a historic referendum.
Now, it’s set to hold another referendum in the effort to bring its constitution, which was written in 1937, up to date with its population's more liberal ideas.
The government announced that there’ll be a people’s vote on whether or not to remove a bit of the constitution that refers to a woman’s life and duties in the home.
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It might not put an end to those laughably unfunny “jokes,” telling women to “get back in the kitchen” or “make me a sandwich,” right away. But it would be a valuable step in recognising that female economic empowerment is a thing now.
Ireland is having the mother of all spring-cleans and keeps finding condiments in the back of the cupboard with sell by dates in the 1970s. https://t.co/ocxkqB6BvS— [Nay-o-me] (@NaomiMc) July 5, 2018
It also wouldn’t restrict women’s right to choose to prioritise their family life over a career, but it would recognise that it’s a woman’s own choice rather than a “duty.”
The clause of the constitution that the referendum will be on is article 41.2.
At the moment, it reads: “By her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.”
“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,” it adds.
It’s now over 80 years since the constitution was formally adopted and, according to justice minister Charlie Flanagan, “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,” he said.
Flanagan added that the clause “may reflect the prevailing social ethos of the 1930s.” But he pointed out that it wasn’t an entirely uncontroversial clause then too.
Women in the home - The Government plans to hold a referendum on Article 41.2.1° of Bunreacht na hÉireann regarding women’s life within the home. This Note analyses gender inequality in Ireland... #seeforyourself#Women#OireachtasLibraryhttps://t.co/DPuCtiya4Vpic.twitter.com/Zf9iqXL7gL— Oireachtas News (@OireachtasNews) June 27, 2018
“A number of people argued it represented a narrow, discriminatory view that sought to confine women to one part of society only — carrying out duties in the home,” he said.
Among the most high-profile referendums in Ireland so far are the decision to repeal a constitutional clause that restricted abortion rights in May and a 2015 decision to introduce same-sex marriage into the constitution.
The vote itself will be held on the same day as the presidential election, which is due to be held by November, and another referendum concerning the country’s blasphemy laws that was announced in June.