Women and men in the home
Sir, – No doubt John Lacken (September 13th) consulted his wife before informing your readership that she is not insulted by article 41.2 of the Constitution on women’s place in the home. However, his claims that Ms Lacken would not have had the option to stay at home or to transfer her tax credits to her husband in the absence of article 41.2 are baseless. Indeed, Mr Lacken seems to acknowledge this when he writes of the current tax policy that allows spouses, and not just wives, to donate their tax credits to the other spouse. I can confirm that my own husband has had occasion to transfer tax credits to me. For what it’s worth, I can further confirm that he is insulted on behalf of all Irish women by the sexist and regressive article 41.2. – Yours, etc,
Sir, –John Lacken’s letter goes some way to refuting Leo Varadkar’s assessment of the article 41.2 of the Constitution as “sexist and backward” and “insulting and outdated” in demonstrating the benefits that women and their families may enjoy from the protection that provision offers.
However, his comments fail to spare article 41.2 from the charge of sexism in particular, as it is only the work of women in the home that is given this special protection. While Mr Lacken is correct to observe that the provision “forbids the Government from pressuring women to work outside of the home” and is to be commended for this, the fact that the same Government may exert this pressure on men may have three unfortunate consequences.
First, men who may also wish to exercise a legitimate choice to work in the home for the benefit of their families may not have the opportunity to do so nor will they receive constitutional recognition for doing so, despite the fact that the work that they may do in this regard is of equal societal value.
Second, if the provision permits the State to remove barriers to staying at home for women but not for men, it limits the choices of women and their families to decide on their own division of labour and will thus reduce the economic viability of a woman working outside the home to support her family. It allows the Government to incentivise a traditional family with a husband earning a wage and a wife working in the home.
Third, this constitutional provision sits uneasily with the extension of the opportunity to marry to same-sex couples who may thus be a family within the constitutional definition of that term. In a couple composed of two men, neither gains the protection of this provision while both partners in a couple composed of two women do. This is an arbitrary result that surely merits amendment.
The mere fact that article 41.2 has its positive aspects does not mean that it is not sexist, nor does it mean that we cannot strive to retain those benefits while amending the text in its current form. – Yours, etc,
Castleknock, Dublin 15.