The Cabinet has decided to hold a referendum on an "outdated" provision in the Constitution which refers to a woman's life and duties in the home.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan brought the proposal to delete Article 41.2 from the Constitution before his Government colleagues today.
The referendum will be held on the same day as the Presidential election and another referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.
In a statement issued this evening, Minister Flanagan said: "In this - the centenary year of the extension of voting rights to women - the Government believes it is an appropriate time to propose the deletion of Article 41.2 and to use the opportunity of the referendum to have a public debate about gender equality in Ireland."
He added that in the 80 years since the formal adoption of the Constitution it has become clear that Article 41.2 "has no place in our Constitution. It undermines today's goal to achieve real gender equality by ensuring women have real choices about what to do with their lives."
He pointed out that while the article may reflect the prevailing social ethos of the 1930s, its inclusion in the Constitution was actually controversial from the very beginning.
"Even before the Constitution was formally adopted, a number of people argued it represented a narrow, discriminatory view that sought to confine women to one part of society only - carrying out duties in the home," the minister said.
Minister Flanagan also cautioned that the proposal to delete the provision does not reflect a negative view of women in the home. Instead it reflects a negative view of the notion that women should be confined to the home only, and should not have choices or be encouraged to play a role in public life.
He added: "Our Constitution does not seek to confine the place of men; we believe it should not seek to confine the place of women. Both men and women should be able to live the lives they choose."
The controversial Article 41.2 has been criticised domestically and internationally including by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Today's decision is part of a wider programme of gender equality measures, including new legislation on wage transparency to tackle the gender pay gap in companies; and a forthcoming initiative to tackle the poor representation of women on corporate boards.
Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton said the Government wants to ensure that gender discrimination is eliminated in Ireland.
He added: "We want women to have meaningful choices and we do not believe the Constitution should seek to confine women to one sphere of life only. We want to ensure that women are remunerated and appointed based on merit, not held back because of discrimination or structural barriers."