Action Canada is a member of the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI), a coalition of organizations from Canada, Poland, India, Egypt, Argentina and Africa, that work together to advance human rights related to sexuality at the United Nations.
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 thefamily-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.