Let’s talk about Article 41.2 of the Irish Constitution. If you are a woman, it tells you your place is in the home. I can only speak for myself, but the home is not my place. I am a 22 year old undertaking a university degree with big aspirations. I certainly don’t intend confining myself to home. Not to say that there is anything wrong with being a homemaker, its perfectly respectable, but it not ME.
The provision itself states:
1° 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.
2° 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.
Now we must remember, this Constitution was penned in 1937. The provision was undoubtedly a product of its time– a bid to protect women and recognise their vital role in society. However, society has changed rapidly and has certainly rendered this provision outdated.
If we only look to the preceding article, article 40.1, we will see the Irish stance on equality:
“All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.
This shall not be held to mean that the State shall not in its enactments have due regard to differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function.”
Arguably, owing to Article 41.2, women aren’t equal to men under the Constitution. Women have a different “social function” to men. It has been stipulated that Article 41.2 read in conjunction with Article 40.1, could justify gender discrimination.
There has in fact been cases where gender discrimination was justified by invoking Article 41.2
The case of L v. L (1992) regarded a wife, seeking equitable ownership of the matrimonial home. She sought to rely on art 41.2, submitting that she made contributions though her work at home. In the Supreme Court it was held that Article 41.2 didn’t provided women such a protection as the contribution they made in the home does not give them an equitable ownership under Art 41.2. It was expressed by Chief Justice Finlay that the article doesn’t provide any particular right within the family, “whether property or otherwise”.
In the 2001 case of Sinnott v Minister for Education, Judge Denham attempted to justify the article by stating:
“Article 41.2 does not assign women to a domestic role. Article 41.2 recognises the significant role played by wives and mothers in the home. This recognition and acknowledgement does not exclude women and mothers from other roles and activities”.
Many bodies have called for the Art 41.2 issue to be addressed. In 1993 The Report of Second Commission on the Status of Women suggested the article should be abolished and later called for it to be amended. The Constitution Review Group Report in 1996 suggested that the article be modified to a gender neutral form. They put forward the following as the proposed article:
“The State recognises that home and family life gives to society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall endeavour to support persons caring for others within the home.”
In the First Progress Report in 1997, The All-Party Committee on the Constitution, agreed with the Constitution Review Group, amendment, although they slightly changed the wording in their proposal.
However, given that the article doesn’t provide any social or economic rights, one would have to wonder what the purpose of amending the article would be. Arguably we should repeal it.
While the article may not “confine” women to the home, it portrays a negative normative message. Its inclusion doesn’t provide women with any positive obligations, rather it depicts an archaic expectation of women. It certainly provides nothing beneficial to women. The article also fails to recognise stay-at-home fathers therefore undoubtedly embeds gender roles within the Constitution.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland have submitted that we repeal the article and The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women have necessitated the amendment of Article 41.2 to remove “stereotypical language on the role of women in the home.”
What are your thoughts? Should we repeal/amend Article 41.2? Does the inclusion of the article anger you, or does its inclusion not vex you in the slightest?
Featured Image: Stock Image – Pixabay