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Committee backs changes to ‘women’s place in the home' section of Constitution

The Justice Committee published a report on the matter today.

Image: Shutterstock/New Africa

THE OIREACHTAS JUSTICE Committee has backed calls that the article in the Constitution that references to ‘women’s place in the home’ should be amended.

Article 41.2 of the Irish Constitution states that a woman should not have to engage in work and neglect their duties in the home as a result of economic necessity. 

The article states:

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.
The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to neglect of their duties in the home.

The Justice Committee held a series of hearings in September after the government requested advice on the matter of the article, and whether it should be removed or amended. 

It today published its report on the Report on pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme of the 38th Amendment of the Constitution (Role of Women) Bill.

The report put forward two possible courses of action for the Government:

Option A would replace Article 41.2 with “more appropriate, gender-neutral language” along the lines of previous recommendations by a Department of Justice and Equality task force in 2016 and the Constitution Review Group in 1996.

If approved, a new Article 41.2 would read:

The State recognises that home and family life gives to society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall endeavour to support persons caring for others within the home as may be determined by law.

Option B recommended postponing any referendum on the matter until the government formally consulted the public – maybe in a Citizen’s Assembly. 

The report states that the public forum would involve “a broader discussion on the role of care work” and consider how the Constitution might recognise carers, meaning whether it should be essentially symbolic, or should “enshrine concrete socio-economic rights”.

“Committee members and witnesses have expressed a universal consensus that the language in Article 41.2 is not appropriate for the Ireland of today,” said committee chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. 

“However, our meetings also demonstrated that a wide range of views exist on the path forward.

Some members and stakeholders expressed support for simple deletion of Article 41.2. Many more called for a new constitutional commitment that reflects the vital role and contribution of carers to our society.

He said he hoped the report would “assist and inform the Government in whatever steps it decides to take next”.

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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