Ireland’s structure says a girl’s place is within the dwelling. Now voters are being requested to vary that | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

A lady’s place is within the dwelling, based on Ireland’s official structure,

Irish voters will determine on Friday — International Women’s Day — whether or not to vary the 87-year-old doc to take away passages the federal government says are outdated and sexist. The twin referendums are on deleting a reference to ladies’s home duties and broadening the definition of the household.

The first vote offers with part of the structure that pledges to guard the household as the first unit of society. Voters are being requested to take away a reference to marriage as the premise “on which the family is founded” and substitute it with a clause that claims households may be based “on marriage or on other durable relationships.” If passed, it will be the 39th amendment to Ireland’s constitution.

The second change — a proposed 40th amendment — would remove a reference to women’s role in the home as a key support to the state, and delete a statement that “mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.” It would add a clause saying the state will strive to support “the provision of care by members of a family to one another.”

Polling stations are open from 7 am to 10 pm Friday. Counting of the ballots from each of Ireland’s 39 constituencies starts at 9 am Saturday morning, with results likely to be known Saturday afternoon or evening.

Irish citizens who are 18 or older – some 3.3 million people are eligible to vote.

Ireland’s constitution dates from 1937, when the country became a republic. Ireland has changed enormously since then, transforming from a conservative, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country in which divorce and abortion were illegal, to an increasingly diverse and socially liberal society. The proportion of residents who are Catholic fell from 94.9% in 1961 to 69% in 2022, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The social transformation has been reflected in a series of constitutional changes. Irish voters legalized divorce in a 1995 referendum, backed same-sex marriage in a 2015 vote and repealed a ban on abortions in 2018.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced a year ago, on International Women’s Day 2023, that the government would hold a referendum to enshrine gender equality and remove discriminatory language from the constitution. The new votes are about removing “very old-fashioned language” and recognizing the realities of modern family life, said Varadkar, Ireland’s first ethnic minority leader, who is in a same-sex relationship but not married.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Joe Biden with a bowl of Shamrock last year

(PA Archive)

Is there support?

Opinion polls suggest support for the “yes” side on both votes, but many voters remain undecided, and turnout may be low.

The current debate is much less charged than the arguments over abortion and gay marriage. Ireland’s main political parties all support the changes, including centrist government coalition partners Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and the biggest opposition party, Sinn Fein.

Many women support the change. Tracy Carroll from County Meath in central Ireland, who cares full-time for her two children, said women had long been told “our place in society is in the home and looking after our children and our husbands.”

“We’ve moved from that, but the constitution hasn’t moved from that, and a women’s place is anywhere she wants it to be,” she told Sky News.

One political party calling for “no” votes is Aontú, a traditionalist group that split from Sinn Fein over the larger party’s backing for legal abortion.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the government’s wording is so vague it will lead to legal wrangles and most people “do not know what the meaning of a durable relationship is.”

The Free Legal Advice Centers, a legal charity, has expressed concern the change to the section on care contains “harmful stereotypes such as the concept that the provision of care … is the private responsibility of unpaid family members without any guarantee of state support.” Some disability rights campaigners argue the emphasis on care treats disabled people as a burden, rather than as individuals with rights that should be guaranteed by the state.

Varadkar said that when it comes to care, “people have responsibilities and the state has responsibilities too.”

He said rejecting the changes “would be a setback for the country.”

“If there’s a ‘no’ vote, on Saturday morning hundreds of thousands of children in Ireland will wake up to hear that Irish society has decided that their family isn’t a constitutional family, isn’t an equal family, just because their parents aren’t married,” Varadkar stated this week. “If there’s a ‘yes’ vote, we’ll be saying as a society that each one households are equal.”