Statement by the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW), a non-governmental organisation in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council On The Resolution by the Human Rights Council, 26th session on its narrow formulation on the ‘Protection of the family’
ARROW, based in Malaysia, is an NGO that has been working since 1993 to advance women’s health and rights, empowering women through information and knowledge by monitoring international commitments, advocacy and mobilisation. We work with national partners across the Asia-Pacific region, regional partners from the global South and allies from the global North.
We, along with our partner organizations would like to raise a few concerns regarding the Human Rights Council Resolution passed on the Protection of the Family.
The resolution entitled ‘Protection of the Family’ was tabled by Bangladesh, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Uganda and was adopted at the Human Rights Council on June 26, 2014, as a result of hostile methods including the ‘No Action’ Motion (the no-action motion is used to interrupt debates at the General Assembly between member States on a draft resolution; it is put to a vote and requires a majority vote), which was introduced by Russia to prevent discussion on an amendment proposed by several countries calling for the recognition of the existence of ‘various forms of the family’ – Argentina, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America and Uruguay.
WE COMMEND the Council on the decision to convene at its 27th session, a panel discussion on the protection of the family, to address the implementation of States’ obligations under relevant provisions of international human rights law, and discuss challenges and best practices in this regard. We appreciate the Council’s intent to reaffirm that ‘States have the primary responsibility to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings, including women, children and older persons’.
WE ARE DISAPPOINTED however, with the Resolution being passed with a no-action motion and not discussed as it should have been. We are also disappointed that the Resolution discusses ‘the family’ and not ‘families’ and that it does not define the diverse nature of families that exist.
WE ADVOCATE against narrow formulations of ‘the family’ and instead ask for the recognition in the diversity of families that exist globally.
WE BELIEVE, that the family needs to be discussed beyond narrow ideas of ‘marriage’ or ‘marriage between a man and woman’ alone. Families in the Resolution must be broadly defined so as not to exclude all other families that may not have their origins in marriage (including single-parent families, child-headed families, extended families, families of divorced individuals, same-sex families, intergenerational families, families headed by AIDS orphans or their grandparents, among others) thus implying that these families are not entitled to similar protection. Census-based trends suggest a persistent rise across a majority of countries of Europe, Africa, Oceania and the Americas. The proportion of persons divorced or separated has also increased in the last two decades, and is evident in all regions to varying degrees. The proportion of women and men aged 45-49 who are currently divorced or separated is highest in European and other high-income countries, and has increased the most in the past 20 years. Additionally, this is not agreed language in any UN document, and is therefore incompatible with constitutions, laws and jurisprudence in many national and regional jurisdictions.
WE BELIEVE AND URGE GOVERNMENTS TO RECOGNIZE that in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of families exist and this diversity in contexts must not only be respected but also welcomed. We believe that this recognition is concurrent with previously agreed upon UN language calling for the widest possible protection and assistance to be accorded to the family.
WE ARE ALSO DISAPPOINTED with the inclusion of the following paragraph in the resolution that recognizes “the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members”.
WE BELIEVE that in attempting to establish the family as a subject of human rights protection, it fails to situate individual family members as the appropriate subjects of human rights protection against violations and abuses. Additionally, it does not recognize that human rights violations and abuses also occur within families and are perpetrated against individual family members who are entitled to benefit from State measures to prevent, protect against, and remedy such violations and abuses.
WE RECALL principle 9, in CPD 1994 which upheld the family as the basic unit of society which is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support and must be strengthened.
WE CALL on governments and the international community to recognize and respect the differences and diversity that exist among families all around the world so that laws and policies may adequately address their concerns, and services and interventions may be directed to prevent and eliminate discrimination and violence irrespective of their diversity. We also believe that narrow formulations such as these may jeopardize and put people including sexual and gender minorities, single-headed households, child-headed families, families of HIV orphans amongst others, at additional risks.
1325 Action Group Nepal
Agriculture Cooperative, Nepal
Alola Foundation, Timor-Leste
Amnesty International Philippines
Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA)
Asia Pacific Women’s Watch (APWW)
Association of War Affected Women (AWAW), Sri Lanka
Bal Samaj Nepal
Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS)
Beyond Beijing Committee, Nepal
Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), USA
Centre for Health, Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness (CHETNA), India
Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (CEM), Chile
Danish Family Planning Association (DFPA), Denmark
Development Campaign Nepal
Dharti Development Foundation, Pakistan
Faculty of Postgraduate Studies, University of Health Sciences, Laos
Fiji Women’s Rights Movement
Gadaki Aama Samuha, Nepal
Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas
Institute for Women’s Empowerment, Hong Kong
Institute of Human Rights, University of the Philippines Law Center
Institut Perempuan (Women’s Institute) – Indonesia
International Alliance of Women
International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
International Secretariat of Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women
Jagaran Media Center, Nepal
Janahit Mahila Taha Didi Bahini Sanstha, Nepal
Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, the Philippines
Nari Kalyan Bachat, Nepal
Narigrantha Prabartana (Women’s Resource Centre), Bangladesh
National Alliance of Women Human right Defenders (NAWHRD), Nepal
National Dalit Network, Nepal
National Fisheries Solidarity Movement., Sri Lanka
National Teacher Association, Nepal
Nijera Kori, Bangladesh
Pakistan Kissan Ittehad Sindh, Pakistan
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
Point of View, India
Pramada Menon, India
Rahnuma-Family Planning Association of Pakistan
Reproductive Health rights and Ethics Center (ReproCen), the Philippines
Rural Development, Nepal
Rural Institution for Community Development, Nepal
Rural Women’s Social Education Centre – RUWSEC, India
Rutgers WPF Pakistan
Sama Resource Group for Women and Health, India
Savisthri National Women’s Movement, Sri Lanka
Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre, Pakistan
Sisters in Islam, Malaysia
Sri Lanka Women’s NGO Forum
Sustainable Development Foundation, Thailand
TARSHI (Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues), India
The Family Health Association of Iran (FHA), Iran
The Human Development, Reproductive Health and Right’s NGO network Mongolia
The Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR)
The Second Chance Foundation, USA
The Women and Media Collective, Sri Lanka
Village Integrated Development Assoication-VIDA, Bangladesh
Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, South Africa
Women Empowerment Nepal
Women Health Foundation (YKP), Indonesia
Women Study Center, Nepal
Women Welfare Service, Nepal
Women’s Global Network for Reproduction Rights (WGNRR)
Youth Action Nepal
Youth Welfare Society, Nepal
Yunnan Health and Development Research Association (YHDRA), China