Article 41.2 (also referred to as the “women in the home clause”) states that a woman’s place in Ireland is in the home. Its presence in the Irish constitution is long outdated and sexist. A woman’s citizenship is defined by her role as a housewife. A man’s citizenship is not defined in the constitution.
There have been movements to amend, or repeal, this provision but none have been successful. The United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has recommended its amendment numerous times, the Irish government promised to do so but no movements have yet been made. The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has also called for its amendment, suggesting that the provision be changed to recognise the work of carers rather than restricting women to the home. Again no action was taken by the State.
The provision is not given any legal effect. Many women have attempted to call upon it during divorce proceedings, usually over the matrimonial home, where they have failed to financially contribute to the household, because they chose not to work. Legislation in the past has reflected the view of article 41.2 but any legislation in line with this provision has long been repealed. The argument, therefore, has been made that Article 41.2 is symbolic in nature.
This argument is hardly an argument. It is symbolic of what? The oppression of Irish women? The removal of Irish women from the public sphere? Male superiority? The symbolic nature of Article 41.2 is not, in any way, a valid argument. If anything it is an argument for its amendment or removal from the Constitution.
The removal of Article 41.2 will do far from cure the State of gender inequality but it would be a symbolic step towards equality. The amendment, or removal, of this provision would represent a commitment by the Irish State and Irish people towards a more fair and equal Ireland.
It’s 2017, it’s time to embrace gender equality. Taoiseach Varadkar has appointed very few women to his government, a disappointing new start to his leadership. Article 41.2 may not be at the forefront of his mind but it should be. The women of Ireland deserved to be recognised as equal citizens to men, not be defined by a role that is long outdated.