United Nations Fails to Protect All Families

UN Human Rights Council Adopts Non-Inclusive Protection of the Family Resolution

“It should not be up to an accidental majority of states
to define what does and what does not
constitute a family. I urge all states to respect,
protect and fulfil the human rights
of all individual members belonging to all
different types of families, including same-sex families.”

— Sirpa Pietikäinen, MEP
(Member of the European Parliament (MEP)
Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup


Photo by Elvert Barnes Flickr/Creative Commons
Photo by Elvert Barnes
Flickr/Creative Commons

A few years ago the United States crossed a meaningful threshold with respect to untraditional families. For the first time, untraditional families surpassed the number of traditional families. It’s a fact now that fewer families are “nuclear” families, a man, a woman, and children. Same sex parents, single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, co-parenting among divorced couples, co-parenting with sperm donors, and polyamory families with children are some of the trends that created this statistical change, which we can see in other countries as well.

Getting the world to accept and welcome these variations, however, will be problematical. This week, we saw that the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the “Protection of the Family.” On its face perhaps innocuous but the resolution urges the High Commissioner for Human Rights to sponsor a panel discussion on “the issue of the protection of the family.”

Whereas the resolution does not define ‘family’, the reference to a singular ‘family’ could be used as precedent to oppose rights for same-sex couples, single parents, and other forms of families in future UN negotiations.

An amendment tabled by Chile, Uruguay, Ireland and France, which underlined that “different cultural, political and social systems various forms of the family exist,”was not discussed after Russia brought a “no action” motion which was adopted by a 22-20 majority.

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, reacted: “I am shocked by the tactics used by Russia and 21 other governments to avoid a discussion on the diversity of family forms. In a shameful manner they used a procedural motion to avoid talking about content.”

“Referring to family, without recognising the existence of more types of families, is to look away from reality where we find families in all forms and shapes.”

This turn of events is particularly vexing since the UN’s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16) gave us the right to family since 1948 but, intentionally or not, doesn’t itself define what a family is.

Article 16.

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State

(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

The only conclusion, therefore, is that this new resolution is rooted in discrimination politics rather human rights.