What’s happening with the referendum on Gender Equality?

Ivana Bacik TD
13 July 2023
  • Apparent u-turn on the Taoiseach’s commitment to a November referendum

This afternoon, Ivana Bacik TD, Labour Party Leader and Chairperson of the Gender Equality Committee, challenged the Tánaiste on the Government’s apparent slippage in ambition on gender equality.

Deputy Bacik said:

“From the suffrage movement to the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment, a lot has been done to advance women’s rights in Ireland. Ireland in 2023 is a very different place to the country of our grandmothers and those before them. However, misogyny and sexism continue to hold women back. Until gender equality is achieved, our democracy will remain unfinished.

“In December 2022, I was honoured to launch the final report of the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality in my capacity as Chairperson of that Committee. Developing the vision of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality, our committee produced a blueprint for the Government to tackle  systemic discrimination against women.

“Among the 45 recommendations made by the Committee was the holding of a referendum to amend the Constitution: to give constitutional recognition to the principle of gender equality and non-discrimination; to remove sexist language, referring to women and mothers’ “life” and “duties in the home”, from its text; to introduce meaningful recognition of the value and role of care in our society; and to recognise a more inclusive definition of families, beyond those based on marriage. Indeed, our committee proposed a specific form of wording, in order to help expedite the process of preparing for the referendum.

“On International Women’s Day (8th March) this year, the Taoiseach announced that this long-promised referendum would be held in November 2023. However, the Government has been curiously quiet on the topic since then.

“Government Ministers now appear to have done a U-turn. Last week, I submitted a parliamentary question to find out if the gender equality referendum will be held in November, and when the wording of the referendum will be published. I was very disappointed by the answer, which did not answer my question at all.

“In the Dáil today, I asked the Tánaiste to make a statement on the referendum. Alas, he too evaded my question, despite the Taoiseach’s previous commitment.

“This referendum has been deferred several times before, but there is no excuse now – the Gender Equality Committee has done the Government’s work for it, in drafting the text of the questions to be put to the people – text which was unanimously agreed by the Committee.

“Ireland has been criticised over many years at an international level for the delay on deleting the sexist language from our Constitution. So, what is the delay?”

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