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Ireland to hold referendums on removing outdated gendered language from constitution

Ireland to hold referendums on removing outdated gendered language from constitution

Ireland is set to hold two referendums next year proposing amendments to two articles of its Constitution that refer to women's traditional domestic role as the foundation of Irish society.

The twin votes are set to be held on 8 March, International Women's Day.

One proposes to delete Article 41.2 of the Constitution, which states that "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", and that "mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."

The proposal would replace this wording with an amended version that contained gender-neutral language.

Deputy Prime Minister Micheál Martin said on Tuesday the wording of the "outdated" article "no longer reflects modern life", while Equalities Minister Roderic O'Gorman noted "archaic" and "sexist" references to housewives "have achieved nothing".

The other vote would amend a different article of the Constitution to ensure that protections are not limited to families with married parents.

This amendment would "recognise that families can also be based on other enduring relationships than marriage", said Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, citing the example of a single-parent family or those headed by grandparents or guardians.

The Irish Constitution was drafted in 1937, at a time when public and private life in the country was dominated by a highly conservative and puritanical brand of Catholicism.

It took decades from the foundation of the current republic before divorce, contraception and homosexuality were legalised.

But social politics have moved quickly in Ireland since the 1990s especially, with the role of conservative Christianity in society and state declining dramatically.

In the last decade, the country has voted overwhelmingly to relax abortion laws and allow gay marriage.

However, in parallel, Ireland's far-right has surged in recent years, encompassing religious fundamentalists, nationalists and anti-immigrant voices.

The final wording of next year's referendums is due to be approved by the government on Thursday.

The government has rejected a proposal to hold a third vote on new language for a different article of the constitution, 40.1, which reads: "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."

It was suggested by a parliamentary committee and officially appointed citizens' assembly that the wording of the article be updated "to refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination".

Yet, Prime Minister Varadkar said the government had declined to take up the proposal for fear that specifying "any particular category" of identity might "unwittingly downgrade" others.