Ireland holds referendums on women’s role, family makeup

In twin referendums, the Irish people are deciding whether or not to amend constitutional references to the definition of the family and the role of women in the household.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar characterized the elections scheduled for Friday, which coincides intentionally with International Women’s Day, as an opportunity to eliminate “extremely antiquated and sexist discourse concerning women.”

The two amendments, referred to as the Family Amendment and the Care Amendment, aim to modify the language of Article 41 in the 87-year-old founding document of the nation, which is regarded as socially conservative.

The initial proposition urges individuals to expand the conceptualization of family by omitting any mention of marriage as the “foundational basis” and substituting it with the phrase “on marriage or other durable relationships.”

The second would omit a mention of the role of women as vital state supporters within the family. The proposed amendment removes the provision that “economic necessity shall not compel mothers to engage in labor to the exclusion of their domestic responsibilities.” In its place, it adds that the state shall make every effort to facilitate “the provision of care by family members to one another.”

Beginning at 07:00 GMT and concluding at 22:00 GMT, the outcomes of both elections are anticipated by late Saturday. Approximately 3.3 million individuals who are 18 years of age or older are eligible to vote.

A social revolution

The referendums mark the most recent effort in Ireland, a nation formerly dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, to address antiquated legislation. Ireland has undergone a significant social and political transformation since its conversion to republic status in 1937. Previously a predominantly Catholic nation, it is now a more diverse and socially progressive society.

The social transformation has been manifested through a sequence of constitutional amendments in a nation where, prior to 1973, married women were ineligible to apply for job openings and unmarried women were required to resign from their positions upon matrimony.Ireland holds referendums on women's role, family makeup

By referendum in 1995, Irish citizens legalized divorce. They supported same-sex marriage twenty years later and repealed an abortion prohibition in 2018.

While campaigning for a “yes” vote in central Dublin on Wednesday, Orla O’Connor, director of Ireland’s National Women’s Council, stated, “A woman’s place is wherever she desires it to be; nothing less is acceptable under our constitution.”

In Friday’s votes, all major political parties support the amendments, and recent opinion polls indicate that both proposals will breeze through.

Turnout with concentration

Nonetheless, a low-key campaign preceding the elections has failed to captivate the electorate and may result in a low voter turnout. In previous elections, low voter turnout increased the percentage of individuals who supported the status quo.

“No” campaigners contend that the undefined term “durable relationship” causes voter confusion and that the constitution is “cancelling” references to mothers and women.

Disability rights advocates have additionally contended that the care amendment seems to depict individuals with disabilities as a financial burden on their families by relinquishing the state’s responsibility to furnish care.

“I am certain that the harmful and sexist language of Article 41.2 will be revised in the future,” said Professor Siobhan Mullally, director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the School of Law, University of Galway, in an interview with Reuters.

“However, I am less certain that a forthcoming administration will rectify our persistent lack of dedication to advancing the public interest through care initiatives in communities and families.”

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