Ireland votes in ‘women in the home’, ‘makeup of family’ referendums | Women’s Rights News

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says the proposed constitutional changes offer an opportunity to remove “very outdated, very sexist language about women”.

Voters in Ireland are voting in twin referendums on proposals to replace constitutional references to the definition of the family and the role of women in the family.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar described Friday’s polls, which deliberately fall on International Women’s Day, as an opportunity to put an end to “very outdated, very sexist language about women”.

The two proposals, called the Family Amendment and the Healthcare Amendment, would make changes to the text of Article 41 in the country’s socially conservative, 87-year-old founding document.

The first asks citizens to broaden the definition of family by removing the reference to marriage as the basis “on which the family is founded” and replacing it with a clause saying that families can be founded “on marriage or on other sustainable relationships’.

The second would remove a reference to women’s role in the family as an important support for the state. It would remove a statement that “mothers shall not be obliged out of economic necessity to perform labor as a result of neglect of their duties in the family” and add a clause stating that the state shall endeavor to “enhance the provision of care by family members to support”. to each other”.

Polling stations opened at 07:00 GMT and closed at 22:00 GMT. The results of both votes are expected at the end of Saturday. Citizens aged 18 or older – approximately 3.3 million people – are allowed to vote.

Social transformation

The referendums are the latest to tackle outdated legislation in Ireland, where the Roman Catholic Church was once all-powerful. Since becoming a republic in 1937, Ireland has transformed from a conservative, predominantly Catholic country to an increasingly diverse and socially liberal society.

The social transformation was reflected in a series of constitutional changes in a country where, until 1973, single women had to leave their jobs after getting married, and married women were barred from applying for job vacancies.


In 1995, Irish voters legalized divorce in a referendum. Twenty years later they supported gay marriage and in 2018 they repealed a ban on abortions.

“A woman’s place is where she wants it, and nothing less is acceptable in our constitution,” Orla O’Connor, director of Ireland’s National Council of Women, said on Wednesday as she voted “yes” in central Dublin.

All major political parties support the changes in Friday’s votes, with recent opinion polls predicting smooth passage for both proposals.

Attendance is central

However, an inconspicuous pre-election campaign does not seem to interest the electorate and could result in low turnout. In the past, low turnouts have increased the share of people voting for the status quo.

‘No’ campaigners claim that the concept of ‘enduring relationship’ is undefined and confuses voters, and that women and mothers are being ‘deleted from the constitution’.

Disability rights activists have also argued that the Care Amendment appears to portray people with disabilities as a burden on families, with the state abdicating its role in providing care.

“I am confident that the sexist, harmful language of Article 41.2 will be resolved in the future,” Professor Siobhan Mullally, director of the Irish Center for Human Rights at the University of Galway School of Law, told Reuters news agency .

“However, I am not very confident that a future government will find a solution to our continued failure to commit to supporting the public good of care work – in families and communities.”


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