Constitutional recognition should be given to the unquestionable economic and social value of unpaid domestic, agricultural and care work, Donegal Sinn Fein Deputy Padraig MacLochlainn told the Dáil.
This, he said, should be gender neutral, encompassing in particular care of children, the elderly and people with disabilities. It should be complemented by constitutional protections for economic and social rights in a Bill or Charter of Rights, including the equal rights to work and to an adequate standard of living.
“Despite the fact that the likes of Mrs. Justice Denham and others have interpreted the real function of Article 41.2 as being to recognise unpaid care work and that it can be construed as gender neutral in a modern context, for avoidance of doubt it would be preferable if this clause was removed in favour of robust and comprehensive equality guarantees for women in the context of a bill or charter of rights,” he said. “Removal or amendment of the clause is not enough. Women need unambiguous constitutional guarantees to enable them to hold the State accountable under law for all violations of our equal rights, be those through actions or failures to act such as in the case of the Magdalen women, the death of Savita Halappanavar, the one in five women who experiences domestic violence and the one in four women who experiences sexual violence or other sexual abuse in her lifetime.”
Speaking during a debate on the Second Report of the Convention on the Constitution, he said if unpaid care work is to be constitutionally recognised for its economic and social contribution to the life of the State, it should be done by way of a gender-neutral clause recognising all such work, including by men.
“This work should no longer be, and is no longer, the exclusive domain of women,” he said. “The increasing contribution of men should be encouraged and recognised as necessary to women’s equality as well as to the overall quality of Irish life.”