Referendum on women’s place in home should be held next year, Oireachtas report says

Gender Equality committee recommends referendum on replacing wording in the Constitution

A referendum on the constitutional clause on women’s place in the home should be held next year, a new Oireachtas report has recommended.

In 2021, the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality voted for a radical programme of reform, issuing 45 recommendations.

The Assembly placed a significant emphasis on replacing the wording in the Constitution on women’s place being in the home with a recognition of the value of care within the home and the wider community.

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 its interim report on constitutional change, published on Wednesday, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality recommended a “constitutional referendum be held in 2023 to give effect to the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations on constitutional change”.

The interim report also recommended that the Government proceed to do the “necessary preparatory work” and that a decision should be made on the wording for a constitutional referendum to be put to the public in 2023. It proposed a number of “appropriate wordings” that could be used in the resulting referendum.

According to the Citizens’ Assembly, article 40.1 of the Constitution should be amended to refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination, while article 41 should be amended to protect family life, with the protection afforded not limited to the marital family.

Article 41.2 should be “deleted and replaced with language that is not gender specific” and which “obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community”, the assembly said.

Speaking at the launch, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik, who chaired the joint committee on gender equality, said a referendum on this issue is “long overdue”.

“It has long been agreed that the way in which women and mothers are referred to in Article 41 is based on outdated gender stereotypes and should have no place in a constitutional text,” she said.

“The reality is also that the definition of family has long been criticised for being insufficiently inclusive of diverse family forms in contemporary Ireland and that too must change.”

The committee’s work on the full set of recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly is ongoing and will continue through the Autumn.

Some of the other recommendations include the implementation of gender quotas in all elections and across public and private bodies, as well as extra supports for carers.

The committee is due to publish its final report on all recommendations in December 2022. It is anticipated the final report will not just consider the 42 other recommendations but also come back to these three, with the hope being the committee could propose one set of wording to be used in the referendum.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Dr Catherine Day, who chaired the Citizens’ Assembly, welcomed the fact that the recommendations of the Assembly were discussed in terms of how they could be implemented, not whether they should be implemented.

“That is a huge step forward compared to any previous work of the Assembly. The work of the Assembly will only be effective if it is taken up and transposed into law and policy and the Constitution,” she added.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times