Clarity needed on wording and timing for gender equality referendum

Ivana Bacik TD
24 August 2023

Labour Leader and Chairperson of the Special Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality (which concluded in December 2022), Ivana Bacik TD, has echoed the concerns expressed today by civil society organisations, in urging the Government to publish the wording for the proposed constitutional referendum on gender equality, care and family.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland, Treoir, Family Carers Ireland, One Family and SIPTU have written to the Taoiseach, setting out why clarity is needed on the timing and wording for the referendum.

Deputy Bacik said,

“From the suffrage movement to the campaign to repeal of the Eighth Amendment, much has been achieved for women’s rights in Ireland to date. However, structural and cultural barriers continue to hold women back. It is appalling, for example, that so few women have ever been elected to Dail Eireann, and that we continue to experience serious inadequacies in the provision of childcare and other supports necessary to acheive greater participation by women in the workplace and in public life. 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 Citizens’ Assembly was the holding of an equality referendum to amend the Constitution, to remove sexist language referring to women and mothers as having “life” and “duties” in the home; to introduce meaningful recognition for the value and role of care in our society; and to provide a more inclusive definition of families, beyond those based on marriage. Our Committee took these recommendations further, in providing Government with a proposed wording for constitutional change to give effect to these vital recommendations.

“In March of this year, the Government confirmed that the equality referendum would go ahead this November. If that is the case, the wording must be published as soon as possible, so as to allow for a national conversation on these vital issues of care and equality to take place in advance of the vote itself.

“It is long past time to replace the 1937 text, which reflected Catholic religious doctrine in seeing the roles of women and mothers as confined to the home – and which did not see any role for fathers in the home. It is unacceptable now to see such delay and ambiguity from the Government. A commitment was made back in March. Making good on that commitment means doing this the right way, providing campaigners with enough time and information to make the case for change. If there has been a change of plan, the least that the Taoiseach can do is to let that be known, and to provide clarity on when this important referendum is to take place.”

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