Wednesday, 20 March 2013

UN 'Family' Resolution Raises Concern

A letter of concern (see below) is being shared across a few networks about a proposed UN Human Rights Council Resolution on "Protection of the Family". Dame Margaret Sparrow, for one, has written to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs' contact for Human Rights ( expressing her disquiet about the impact this resolution could have not just on reproductive health and rights, but on LGBTI people, indeed anyone who doesn't fit into a "traditional family" mould.

NZ is not currently a member of the HRC, but the Women's UN Report Network suggests people contact their country's foreign ministry, and also their permanent mission in Geneva. WUNRN reports that there is a group of NGOs working in Geneva to address this. (A copy of the resolution itself can be downloaded from this UN site, just search for "Protection of the Family"):

Proposed UN Human Rights Council Resolution on 'Protection of the Family'

On Friday March 15th, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a cross-regional group of nine Member States (Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Russian Federation, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe) tabled a Draft Resolution (A/HRC/22/L.25) entitled “Protection of the Family”. On Friday March 22nd this resolution is expected to be debated. 

This resolution tries to cement the traditional family as a subject of human rights protection in and of itself.  From this initiative may stem further efforts to oppose the protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive rights, and in particular issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, abortion, adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education.  All of these issues have been highly contested issues in the context of recent and prior negotiations at the Human Rights Council.

This is the first resolution of its kind at the UN Human Rights Council and as such could be the start of what will likely be a long-term incremental agenda at the Council. It is unlikely that many delegations will vote against this resolution, given that most delegations do not want to be depicted as anti-family.  So, the realistic hope that we have is for concerns with the text to be fixed in whatever version is adopted by the Council.

In the single negotiation session that has taken place so far, a number of key delegations have spoken to address the problematic aspects of this resolution, including Uruguay, Mexico, the Netherlands (on behalf of the EU), and the United States.  However, it is critical that further delegations voice their concerns with this text.

What makes the draft resolution problematic?

The focus on “protection of the family” in the Resolution is not consistent with the Council’s mandate which is to promote and protect human rights.  International human rights law is primarily about the entitlements and freedoms of individuals; the family in and of itself is not a subject of human rights protection.  Within the Resolution, there is no recognition of the need to protect and promote the human rights of individuals within family contexts.  It is the individuals who have human rights entitlements, which can be violated within the family context.  For example, it is well known that families are often a site of violence, especially towards women, children, and the elderly.  According to the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, domestic violence is the most pervasive form of violence against women. Hence, the focus of this resolution must be the protection of the human rights of members of families.

There is no recognition in the Resolution of the fact that various forms of the family exist in all contexts.  This includes single-parent households, same-sex-parented households,  joint families, extended families, families without children, families of divorced individuals, intergenerational families, etc.


Psycho Milt said...

This is actually fairly restrained, given what you might expect from a "Human Rights Council" consisting of Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Russian Federation, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea unable to participate, or what?

AlisonM said...

@ Psycho Milt Indeed...the four you mention aren't currently members.

myr lock said...

What people create when they have time on their hands.
It would be nice if these people invested time in to stopping war around the globe.
'Protecting the family' smells like time and energy invested into deciding 'what is a family?'
Military spending needs to cease.
End war and watch families prosper.

Anonymous said...

The resolution doesn't define "family", there's no reason from the text why this would be read in a limited way - so rather than opposing this, why not use it as a lever to support family friendly policies like paid parental leave, strong social support for low income parents, and marriage equality?

- Elley

AlisonM said...

Excuse the late update, but here's the latest on this issue: After widespread protests, Egypt, in a surprise move on the final day, withdrew the resolution, though it may reappear in a subsequent session in a revised form.