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UN: Opposing Human Rights Council resolution on “Protection of the Family”

Urgent Action Alert

Tuesday 19 March 2013, by siawi3

Source: email, March 18, 2013

What’s happening?

Ø On Friday March 15th, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a cross-regional group of nine 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†.

Ø This resolution is a ploy to cement the traditional family as a subject of human rights protection in and of itself. From this initiative will 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 Council.

Ø This is the first resolution of its kind at the Human Rights Council and as such it is the “thin end of the wedge†– the start of what will likely be a long-term incremental agenda at the Council. If adopted by the Human Rights Council in its form, it will continue on the Council’s agenda.

Ø 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.

Ø 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.

Ø Particularly important Governments to voice these concerns with are Members of the Human Rights Council (see attached list) as well as a few key Observer States, including: South Africa and “problematic†EU members, such as Malta and Hungary.

What makes the draft resolution problematic?

Ø 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.

Ø 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, child-headed families, joint families, extended families, families without children, families of divorced individuals, intergenerational families, etc.

Please find attached both a copy of the draft resolution as tabled and ALSO a document of key concerns and suggestions that you can use/edit/adapt as you see fit with governments.

What can you do?

Ø Contact your country’s Foreign Ministry indicating your concerns with this resolution and your expectation that they oppose the resolution in its current form. As action on this resolution will take place this coming Friday March 22nd, it is important for you to contact your government as soon as possible. Contact details for the Foreign Ministry of each country can be found at:

Ø You can also contact your permanent missions in Geneva directly by phone, fax or email voicing the same concerns. A list of Geneva missions is available at:

Ø Forward this action alert to other supportive NGOs.

There is a group of NGOs working together in Geneva to address this, including the International Commission of Jurists, the Sexual Rights Initiative, ARC-International, Baha’i International Community, COC – Netherlands, International Service for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and others.
We would ask you to keep us in the loop, particularly if we can assist with follow-up in Geneva with Mission staff. Please direct your emails to Stuart Halford stuart.geneva or Neha Sood (ACPD/Sexual Rights Initiative) neha