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Referendum on women’s place in home postponed

Today the Irish Constitution still says that women belong in the home, according to Article 41.2.1.

A referendum on Article 41.2.1 was originally due to be held the same day as the Blasphemy referendum, October 26, but has been postponed.

The article reads: in particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, women 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.”

ROSA (for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity) Socialist Feminist Movement told the Limerick Voice they believe the article should be fully repealed, however are concerned that the referendum may never be returned to, meaning the article will remain in the Constitution.

“It is important to remember the context with which the article was inserted. This was at a time when the state was deliberately pursuing an agenda which sought to limit women’s participation in public life and decision making.

“Should the article be repealed it will mean that there is no longer an expressed will to define, in the narrowest terms, women’s’ role in Irish society.”

ROSA women protest outside Leinster house, September 2017. (Picture: Sharon Nolan).

National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCBWN) Limerick Women’s Network are more optimistic about postponing the referendum, saying they’re pleased it has been postponed to allow for further discussion on the issue.

“If we look at the results of the vote at the Citizen’s Assembly on the proposal to amend article 41.2.1. of the Constitution, an overwhelming majority voted in favour with only 11% voting in favour of its retention” they said.

The Women’s Network explained that the article implies that women will marry and take on the responsibility of caring for the house and children, which has little relevance to the lives of young women in Ireland in 2018.

They said the article is also out of line with the recent Parental Leave amendment bill in 2017, which acknowledges the role of men in providing childcare.

The Women’s Network added that the article has never managed to keep women out of poverty.

“Lone mothers continue to be the single group most likely to be living in poverty. Women of pensionable age, women with disabilities and many other groups of women continue to live at risk of poverty in Ireland today.

“Therefore we would argue that a way needs to be found to acknowledge the reality of people’s lives in 2018. This must include a recognition of the unpaid care work that happens regardless of whether it is delivered by men or women,” they said.

With regards to the cervical scandal, ROSA said that they continue to campaign to force the government to return the cervical smear testing to Irish laboratories who have a higher detection rate.

“We will continue to advocate for a compensation scheme to help women and their loved ones who have been affected also. In general, ROSA understand that the only way change can be achieved is through grassroots struggle to bring about socialist change.

“As long as the current neoliberal status quo remains women’s lives and health will continue to be secondary to the prospects of profit generation, and money saving endeavours, as has been evidenced by other such scandals in the provision of women’s healthcare in recent decades,” ROSA said.

The facts

The Marriage Bar, which was lifted in 1957, meant that women who were married were not allowed to work in the public sector.

Prior to the Family Home Protection Act 1976, a husband could sell or mortgage the family home without the consent of his wife.

100 years ago this year, women over the age of 30 who either had property or were in university were given the right to vote, with this being extended to all women in 1922.

Today Irish women and people with a uterus face the cervical check scandal which was brought the light after Limerick woman, Vicky Phelan, was given an inaccurate smear test result in 2011, and is now suffering from terminal cancer. It has been reported that 221 women have been affected.

Earlier this month, another women, Emma Mhic Mhathúna effected by the scandal passed away of cervical cancer aged 37.

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