To the neglect of their duties in the home

I don’t think I knew, before yesterday, that Ireland’s constitution has a clause about women and “their duties in the home.”

It’s in Article 41, starting on page 160 of the government version.

2° The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.

That’s an alarming sentence already. It sounds Vaticanesque, but I haven’t been able to find anything from the Vatican that says, as that sentence seems to, that the family is “superior to” (and thus immune from?) the law. I have a feeling I’ve written about the idea before, too, but I haven’t been able to find that either. It’s a terrible idea, though. We’re all very familiar with how common it is for someone – especially someone female – to need the protection of the law because “the family” is intent on killing her, or beating her up or locking her in her room forever or keeping her out of school. Yes the law is cold, and no substitute for a loving family, but it can be a much-needed protection from an enraged family.

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.

Wow. The Constitution tells the women of Ireland that they have duties in the home, which they should not neglect.

Yes, Ireland needs to empower its women through secularism!


  1. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    Wow. The law *could* be reasonable if “mother” is replaced with “primary caregiver” or something of the like, but the way it is here? Wow.

  2. smhll says

    Here’s a story that’s not centered in Ireland, but is a bit relevant. Thankfully, we’ve made some progress in the last 50 years. Not enough, though.

    “In 1961, Phyllis Richman applied to graduate school at Harvard. She received a letter asking how she would balance a career in city planning with her ‘responsibilities’ to her husband and possible future family. Fifty-two years later, she responds.”

  3. Barefoot Bree says

    Just last night I was reading an old book (1982! but still good) by Ferdinand Mount, called The Subversive Family: An Alternative History of Love and Marriage. In addition to debunking myths like the supposed recent invention of the nuclear family and that medieval parents were indifferent to their very young offspring, the first couple of chapters showed how the early Christian church and certain totalitarian regimes (he picked on the Soviets) went through a recognizable pattern in regards to how they viewed the family. First they tried to destroy it (remember Jesus’s “no man who does not hate his father can be my disciple), then they did their best to co-opt and control it – all because they knew that a close-knit family was the most powerful force in the world, able to undermine their own control over the people. Given Ireland’s very Catholic history, this clause from their constitution (enacted in 1937) is most definitely a part of that thread, as well as misogynistic to the core.

    (On an only tangentially related note, it’s amazing how often synchronicity strikes in my life. I read a wide variety of things, and am always chasing down library books on arcane subjects. I’ve gotten used to having the same subject pop up again and again in short order from wildly separated sources (and yes, I’m very familiar with concepts like confirmation bias, which does not wholly explain the phenomenon), but to have this blog post pop up the very next morning after reading that old book? That’s a record.)

  4. says

    That’s far from the only problem with this. It would seem to make it perfectly legal to participate in a criminal enterprise if your family told you to.

  5. karmacat says

    There should be amendment to their constitution

    The State shall endeavour to ensure that lawmakers shall not be obliged by their stupid misogynist brains to engage in legislating to the neglect of them being kicked in the head until their misogyny is shaken free of their brains (or something like that)

  6. Timothy (TRiG) says

    There’s a lot of weirdness in our constitution, not least the religious oaths for office. I do like the fact that Article 45 requires the government to be somewhat socialist, but it’s also marked as a purely aspirational article with no legal teeth. Rather odd, that.

    We recently had a referendum to strengthen our child protection policy (previously, children of married parents could not be placed for adoption, even if everyone involved (parents, foster parents, social workers) wanted them to be). Really, though, the whole document needs an overhaul.


  7. sailor1031 says

    “I haven’t been able to find anything from the Vatican that says, as that sentence seems to, that the family is “superior to” (and thus immune from?) the law.”

    And you won’t find it, because in the view of the Vatican only RCC Inc is superior to and immune from the law. Families are merely units for the production of children who are to become new contributors to RCC and provide a pool of compliant buggerees for the clergy.

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