The role of women and marriage soon to be amended in the Irish Constitution?

The role of women and marriage soon to be amended in the Irish Constitution?

Marriage is currently considered to be the only foundation of family in Ireland, but this could soon change. Other relationships considered to be 'long-term' could also find their way into the country's Constitution.

Unmarried couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual, as well as cohabiting families or single parents would be constitutionally recognised as forming a family.

Redefining women's role

A second referendum will also redefine women's place in the home. At the moment, the Constitution guarantees that women do not have to work outside of their home if this "goes against their duties at home" - without further defining the notion of duties.

The article in question recognises the national benefit that is provided by married women's work in their own homes, including caring for family members.

If the change is passed, the section would be amended to recognise family members who act as carers generally, and to provide state support for all Irish people in this situation, not just women.

Modernising Ireland

Critics argue that the two referendums would create legal loopholes, in particular by not defining the new family-related terms precisely enough.

The Labour Party supports the two referendums, believing them to be necessary in order to recognise the full range of current family realities, and to do away with language about women and mothers that is considered sexist and outdated.

The Irish Constitution was put in place in 1937, when the country was guided by more conservative values, based on the principles of Catholic religion.

Long lagging behind its European neighbours, Ireland has recently modernised its approach to women's and minority rights.

Until 1973, the State prohibited married women from working in the public service, de facto forcing them to resign if they married, and to devote themselves to their homes.

Voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) has been legalised for all Irish women in 2019, whereas until now it was one of the strictest in Europe, authorised only in cases of serious and imminent danger to the life of the pregnant woman.

In 2015, the Irish people legalised marriage for same-sex couples by referendum.

However, the issues surrounding these two new referendums are of less interest to the public than those concerning abortion or gay marriage. The results are expected on Saturday morning.