Ireland to vote on changing womens’ duties

Of all the days to decide how the constitution should define the duties of women in society, Irish voters headed to the polls on International Women’s Day to cast their votes. 

Driving the news: Yesterday’s referendum posed two questions to citizens — to vote “yes” or “no” to loosen the definition of family and to remove references to a woman’s role being solely as a caregiver within the home, long seen as crucial to the “common good” of society.  

  • The first question proposes recognition for families based on both marriage and “durable relationships” (40% of children are born outside of marriage or civil partnerships).

  • The second question, on care, would axe references to a woman’s “life within the home” and include other family members as caregivers, per the Financial Times

Catch-up: Ireland’s constitution is 87 years old, but it has seen many updates over the years. Bans on divorce and abortion were modified in 1995 and 2018, respectively, and in 2015 Ireland became the first country to amend its constitution to allow for same-sex marriage based on popular vote.

  • These changes mark the declining influence of the Catholic church in Ireland, which shaped views on issues like marriage, family life, sexuality, and reproductive rights.

Why it matters: This vote was not as clear-cut as past changes, with many voters remaining undecided as of yesterday. The impacts of a “yes” result to both would be significant, from promoting a realistic understanding of family life in Ireland to dialling back on gender roles.

Bottom line: If citizens decide “no,” it’ll be because many didn’t vote at all and others took issue with the new language, with critics pointing out the legal uncertainty of expanding the definition of family too much and not expanding the definition of “carers” enough.—SB