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Home / News / FLAC urges no vote in referendum on ‘care’ amendment

FLAC urges no vote in referendum on ‘care’ amendment

The independent human rights and equality organisation, which offers free legal advice, has urged a no vote in the forthcoming referendum on the “care” amendment to the Constitution, which proposes deleting the current reference to “women in the home” and replacing it with a new article relating to “family care”.

In a statement, the Free Legal Advice Centres organisation (FLAC), which campaigns for equal access to justice, said the wording of the proposed amendment on care is ineffective.

It said it is “implicitly sexist” and is unlikely to provide carers, people with disabilities, or older people with any new enforceable rights.

It said it is also unlikely to require the State to provide improved childcare, supports for carers or for children with disabilities.

FLAC said it is supporting the other proposed amendment to the Constitution aimed at extending the definition of “family” beyond families founded on marriage alone.

FLAC said the proposed reference to “families based on other durable relationships” would extend constitutional protection to single parent families, as well as to cohabiting couples in long-term relationships and their children and it said, possibly to families where multiple generations live together as one unit.

It said it believes the amendment will have positive policy and legal implications and will improve the lives of “diverse families”.

However, the organisation said it is “highly concerned” that the likely legal consequences this amendment have not been adequately explained by the Government.

It said if the Government does not bring in legislation to define what a durable relationship is, then diverse families will have to go to court to vindicate their new rights.

FLAC said its positions are based on their legal analysis of the extent to which the proposed amendments will deliver enforceable rights, stronger obligations on the State and improvements in the lives of those who experience discrimination and disadvantage.

It said it is “highly regrettable” in relation to the care amendment that voters do not have the choice to simple delete the current provision relating to “women in the home”.

It said this provision is ineffective, sexist and offensive. But it said the proposed new amendment would give constitutional expression to harmful stereotypes including the concept that providing care to older adults and those with disabilities is the “private responsibility of unpaid family members without any guarantee of State support”.

It said like the “explicitly sexist” provision it is proposed to replace, the new article endorses a status quo where women undertake the bulk of unpaid care work. It said the proposed amendment is implicitly sexist by failing to place any obligation on the State to redress this gender imbalance.

FLAC said it would also “give constitutional expression to the harmful stereotype of people with disabilities as subjects of family care” rather than autonomous individuals with rights of their own.

FLAC said it is “hugely regrettable” that the legislative process around the referendum bills was truncated and says the “rushed process” around finalising the amendments has contributed to the weaknesses of the proposals.

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