The Sexual Rights Initiative condemns the adoption of the Protection of the Family resolution by the UN Human Rights Council on Friday the 3rd of July. This is a set back to the advancement of the human rights of individuals as it seeks to elevate the family as an institution in need of protection without acknowledging the harms and human rights abuses that are known to occur within families, or recognizing that diverse forms of family exist.
An obstructive procedural tactic of a No Action Motion (NAM – a procedure by which it is proposed that no decision be taken on a particular matter) was used to prevent consideration of one of the proposed amendments that would have strengthened the text and made a provision to be inclusive in the protection of diverse families. The No Action Motion passed by ONLY one vote. With the exception of one, other positive proposed amendments could not pass. A vote to withdraw the entire resolution was also brought but failed.
While this is a setback and serves to further polarise the HRC, it is heartening that the strength of the opposition to the resolution was considerable. How this resolution will now be used needs to be monitored closely. It is likely, for example, to be referenced in regressive positions taken on the Post-2015 development agenda.
At the UN Human Rights Council’s 29th session, a core group of 12 States (Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia) tabled the highly contentious resolution: Protection of the family: The contribution of the family to the realization of the right to adequate standard of living for its members particularly through its role in poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development.
This resolution follows on from a voted resolution adopted at the Council in June 2014 entitled, Protection of the family which called for the holding of a panel on the subject in September 2014. The 2014 Resolution was only adopted following a No Action Motion called by the core group to prevent voting on an amendment that recognised that in different contexts, various forms of the family exist.
The bringing back of such a damaging and divisive resolution at this session reaffirmed the core group’s intent to not only continue to subjugate, and thus deny the rights of individual members of the family in favour of the family unit, but to refute the notion that violations actually take place within the family unit, and also to attempt to influence the Post-2015 development agenda. The text of this resolution is extremely problematic in that amongst other concerns it sought to elevate the family as an institution in need of protection without acknowledging that families perpetuate patriarchal oppression, traditions and harmful practices, and that human rights abuses do occur within families (i.e., marital rape, child abuse, FGM, early and forced marriage, dowry related violence, so-called “honour” killings and other forms of domestic violence). Further, the core group continuously did not include in the text the recognition that various family forms exist, despite many delegations requesting them to do so. Without such recognition, it cannot be assured that the family-friendly and family-oriented public policies referred to in the resolution will address the needs of all family members in diverse families.
During negotiations the above issues were raised countless times by States from all regions, yet the core group continuously refused to address them in the text. As such, states from different regions were left with little option other than to table a number of amendments in a bid to ensure the text was more balanced. Four of these amendments were positive in that they sought to rectify the highly imbalanced text, the remaining amendment was tabled by Pakistan which sought to polarise the issue even more. It called for an additional paragraph: Recognizes that men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the rights to marry and to found a family, bearing in mind that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Clearly this amendment was problematic as not only does it negate same-gender marriages, but also was not raised at all during the open negotiations.
Was brought by Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Uruguay and this sought to insert a new paragraph (PP4bis) recognising that in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist. This amendment was positive – and based on agreed language from countless consensus documents – recognising the diversity of family structures. However, a NO ACTION MOTION was called on this amendment. The resulting vote and passing of the motion by a solitary vote meant that no further discussion could take place on the content of this amendment.
No Action Motion (NAM)
- For – 22
- Against – 21
- Abstained – 03
No Action Motion PASSED
Brought by Albania, Ireland and Norway on paragraph OP6. The amendment sought to delete language from the paragraph stating that the family plays a crucial role in the preservation of cultural identity, traditions, morals, heritage and value system of the society. This was another progressive amendment to remove a troublesome provision that sought to portray traditions, morals and values as only ever being positive thus negating harmful traditional and customary practices and such.
- For – 18
- Against – 23
- Abstained – 5
Brought by Belgium, Luxembourg and Uruguay and based on consensus language from A world fit for children (2002). This amendment called for the deletion of 4 problematic paragraphs (OPs 10, 11, 12 and 13) and their replacement with the following paragraph OP10bis: Reaffirms the need to promote and protect the rights of the Child, and in this regard calls upon States to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities in the best interests of the child, bearing in mind that a child should grow up in a safe and supportive family environment and giving high priority to the rights of the children, including to survival, protection and development. A positive amendment that recognises the child as rights holders within the family and emphasises the principle of the best interests of the child. This amendment was accepted orally by the core group and hence no vote was required.
Brought by Albania, Denmark and Norway. This amendment called for inserting language in the chapeau of paragraph OP23 to add and its members after the word family and to delete the phrase as the natural and fundamental group unit of society. In addition, the amendment called for the inclusion of the words and its members after the word family in paragraph OP32. Again this positive amendment wanted to bring emphasis to the rights of individual family members.
- For – 19
- Against – 23
- Abstained – 04
Was brought by Pakistan and sought to insert a new paragraph (OP4bis) in the resolution to read Recognizes that men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the rights to marry and to found a family, bearing in mind that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. This was a very hostile amendment. Not only would this exclude marriages of individuals of the same gender, but it was brought at the last minute without any discussion during negotiations. This was withdrawn by Pakistan once the amendment on diversity of family forms was obstructed.
VOTE ON ENTIRE TEXT AS ORALLY REVISED
Following the voting on amendments, there then followed a vote on the entire resolution (as orally revised). Ireland called for a vote on the entire text of the resolution.
- In favour of keeping the text – 29
- Against the text – 14
- Abstained – 04
As such, we have a voted resolution that will be used to advance highly contentious family values and family-oriented policies at the expense of the human rights of individuals within the family unit and to the detriment of already marginalized families and individuals.