WATCH: Senators says women being “erased” from maternity leave legislation

Senator Sharon Keogan has told the Senate that the government is about to “erase” all mention of women and mothers in proposed legislation which will also amend legislation on maternity leave.

The Independent Senator from Meath strongly criticised what she saw as the influence of a “vocal minority” who have “have been given powerful platforms as lobbyists.

“To all the women and mothers of Ireland, did you know that the government is about to erase all mention of you from our legislation on maternity leave?” she asked.

“The proposition may sound ridiculous — indeed it is — but that’s the plan under the new deceptively named “Work Life Balance Bill”; after all, who could be against work life balance?

“But hidden among the miscellaneous provisions of the Bill are various amendments to the Maternity Protection Act 1994 regarding both breastfeeding and maternity leave — amendments which remove all mention of the word “woman”, and which assert that men can breastfeed too,” the Senator said

“The word ‘maternity’ comes from the Latin word ‘mater’, which means mother — to delete the word ‘mother’ from maternity legislation is a nonsense.  Is the government suggesting that the word ‘’maternal” and other such words are not specifically linked to females?”

“We are told regularly that words matter, yet when women tell us that the words ‘mother’, ‘female’, and ‘woman’ matter to them they are dismissed as ‘unkind’ or ‘exclusionary’. The reality is that ‘maternity’ is undertaken by women and not by men. To replace the word ‘mother’ or ‘woman’ with the word “person” is a retrograde step and strips women of a core part of their identity.”

“Women have wombs where our children are conceived and nourished during pregnancy. Women have breasts with which we feed our children.

These things need to be said, and they need to be said without fear of causing offence,” she said.

“Who is insisting we deny that there are two sexes, and why?” she continued. “Sex is a protected characteristic in our Equal Status Act because women experience discrimination based on their biology. Can’t we find a way to be inclusive without erasing women’s biology and women’s experiences from our legislation?”

“This country has spent years coming to terms with its treatment of women who became mothers outside of marriage — it is a journey we’re still making, and I’m sure there are more apologies to the women of Ireland to come.”

“Are we, at the same time as those apologies, going to launch yet another attack on women in the very piece of legislation that was intended to protect them?”

“Perhaps it was thought that these changes wouldn’t be noticed — or, that we wouldn’t care. Both of these assumptions are wrong, and if the government feels that it can quietly remove us from legislation, rest assured that the women of Ireland will not go gentle into that good night.”

In response, Senator Lynn Ruane said that “it is always a good day to say that trans rights are human rights.”

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