The constitutional clause on women’s place being in the home should be replaced by a recognition of the value of care within the home and the wider community, the Citizens’ Assembly has recommended.
The 99 members of the assembly on gender equality voted for a radical programme of reform which could see gender quotas in all elections and across public and private bodies, extra supports for carers and a new clause in the constitution recognising all forms of families in the Constitution, not only families based on marriage.
Assembly chair Dr Catherine Day said the citizens had not called for "incremental change" but for "big changes that can make Ireland a better and more gender equal place to live for all of us."
The members voted overwhelmingly to replace Article 41.2 of the Constitution which 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 the neglect of their duties in the home.”
In line with constitutional change, they recommended that carers should have a pay structure and benefits (including sick pay and pensions) that reward their level of skill and training, similar to those of teachers and nurses.
They should have a career structure, including access to training and professional registration, which enables them to progress in their chosen area.
The citizens recommended that by the end of 2022 gender quotas should be extended for party candidates to local, Seanad and European elections.
Gender quotas should be increased from 30 per cent to 40 per cent and should also apply to men. Funding for public bodies should be contingent on reaching a 40 per cent gender balance quota by 2025.
Similarly, gender quota legislation should require private companies to have at least 40 per cent gender balance on their boards.
Public funding to cultural, sports, arts and media organisations should be contingent on a quota of 30 per cent representation of women, and of men, on their governing bodies by 2025 and 40 per cent by 2030.
The citizens recommended a move to a publicly funded, accessible and regulated model of childcare over the next decade.
They suggested the State share of GDP spent on childcare should increase from the current 0.37 per cent of GDP to at least 1 per cent by no later than 2030.
Paid leave for parents should cover the first year of a child’s life, be non-transferable, provide lone parents with the same total leave period as a couple and be incentivised by increasing payment levels to encourage increased take up.
Targets should be set to reduce the hourly gender pay gap to 9 per cent by 20256 and to 4 per cent by 2030 with a view to eliminating it by 2035.
The National Women’s Council welcomed the recommendation to replace the “sexist and outdated” clause on women’s place in the home and to support carers.
Its director Orla O’Connor said it “send a strong and clear signal to Government and all decision makers that women’s equality needs to be at the centre of our Constitution, our legislation and our policies.
“The recommendations have the potential to really transform women and girls’ lives in this country and include the key elements that we need to achieve gender equality. We call on the Government to prioritise their implementation without delay.”
The citizens also called for a greater role of the State in relation to the provision of care in this country with a public childcare model and improved pay and conditions for childcare workers, the majority of whom are women.
Ms O’Connor called on the Government to hold a referendum next year to change the Constitution in line with the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.
The assembly has met over six weekends online under the chairwomanship of Catherine Day, the former secretary general of the European Commission.
Reacting to the report, Taoiseach Micheál Martin thanked the members for their service.
Recalling what he said when he addressed the assembly in October, the Taoiseach reiterated that citizens’ assemblies have a proud track record in Ireland.
The final report of the Citizen's Assembly on Gender Equality is expected to be presented to the Oireachtas and published in June 2021.