ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Will COVID-19 Hamper Strides towards Gender Equality in Ireland?

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of global advances towards gender equality, thus foregrounding the inherent difficulty of achieving sustained progress within the constraints of a patriarchal system. In this paper, we explore this issue in greater depth, focusing on Ireland, widely heralded as a progressive and increasingly secular state, but one still steeped in patriarchal norms enshrined in the Constitution. Accounting for the influence of this foundational document, we examine women’s economic participation, including the impact of the pandemic response, and domestic violence. This paper argues that the pandemic response has reinforced Ireland’s patriarchal structure, stalling, and, in some cases, threatening progress towards gender equality.


Globally, the pandemic has had a tumultuous impact. As economies plummet and health systems weaken, the pandemic foregrounds existing societal inequalities. The disproportionate impact on the “other” is clear and intersectional, based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability and class/caste. Cutting across geographical boundaries, the gendered impacts of COVID-19 permeate women’s lives, from paid and unpaid work to the increased burden of care work and spikes in domestic violence (UN Women 2020). An emerging narrative among feminist scholars and activists is that the pandemic has placed the considerable advances towards gender equality across diverse national contexts in the last quarter century in jeopardy.

In this paper, we examine the metanarrative of gender equ­ality in Ireland, which has transformed from an ultraconser­vative state into a “progressive” state. However, despite rapid strides towards gender equality, its Constitution retains Article 41.2 (Government of Ireland 1937), enshrining women’s household duties. The particularity of this article provides the opportunity to analyse the impacts of the pandemic against a backdrop of institutionalised gender inequality, offering lessons and warnings, to other countries.

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Updated On : 25th Apr, 2021
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