Civil Partnership Bill likened to segregation law in South Africa


THE GOVERNMENT'S Civil Partnership Bill was compared to past segregationist policies in South Africa at the annual Turas na mBan gathering held in Westport, Co Mayo at the weekend.

Addressing the conference on the subject of Love and Social Change, Dr Anne Louise Gilligan said institutions creating separation and segregation never worked.

She said civil partnership rights were not marriage rights and therefore diminished the equality of treatment of gays and lesbians in Irish society.

"One of our greatest challenges - a core challenge - in Ireland today is to accept and respect diversity. In order to have real equality, not only do we have to accept our sameness, equally importantly we must accept our differences," she said.

Her partner, Dr Katharine Zappone, expanded on the couple's personal story and their campaign for constitutional change.

"This is about the whole notion of having the right to marry the person we choose to love," said Dr Zappone.

She cited their marriage in British Columbia in September 2001 as "a society recognising their normality" and thus affording them fundamental equality.

Dr Zappone also said that Ireland was on the cusp of "a new confident stance on the separation of church and state".

She added that "there was a growing lack of tolerance for intolerance".

Dr Gilligan and Dr Zappone are fighting a legal battle to have their Canadian marriage recognised in the Republic.

Asking "Have women got it right?, journalist Victoria White challenged Eurostat statistics that define women who work in the home as "economically inactive". She argued that with the onset of recession, it was timely to redefine the real value of parenting.

"We are at the end of a whole phase of capitalism, and now is the time for valuing things like time and love. To value parenting at home is to value in the manner of a new era, which demands we look at societal capital and environmental capital, not just Das Capital," said Ms White.

She concluded that many women did not want the time-poor, economically driven lifestyle of early second millennium free market capitalism.

"Women do not have what they want, but I do not believe they want what men have. I don't believe many men want it either," she said.

Turas na mBan - Celebrating the Journey of Women is organised by community development group Meitheal Mhaigheo Teo.

The two-day conference was opened by Marie-Louise O'Donnell of Dublin City University and included a lecture by Prof Bo Almqvist of UCD on Peig Sayers: A Reassessment; a presentation on Women in Song by Seán Garvey, as well as a number of other talks on matriarchy and medieval spirituality.

© 2008 The Irish Times

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