Statement on the Resolution by the HRC on ‘Protection of the family’

April 20, 2014 big-logo

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.

Endorsed by:

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

CCIHP, Vietnam

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

Chhori, Nepal

CREA, India

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

FWLD, Nepal

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

Naripokkho, 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

Saathi, Nepal


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

Utthan, India

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)

WOREC, Nepal

Youth Action Nepal

Youth Welfare Society, Nepal

Yunnan Health and Development Research Association (YHDRA), China

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