“Various Forms of the Family” Unnecessary in UN Resolutions

Posted on | February 14, 2013 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D. |

In December, the EU tried to qualify the word “family” with “various forms of the family exist” in a GA resolution on observing the international year of the family (2014). The proposal was shot down by the G77 (who sponsored the resolution), and the EU whined vociferously during the adoption of the resolution in the General Assembly.

I learned yesterday that at continuing discussions about the year of the family that are ongoing in ECOSOC’s Commission on Social Development (CSocD), the EU has complained again that their new language was not included in the original GA resolution.They are still whining. The US echoed the same complaints. 

But the EU and US did not try to introduce the same phrase at CSoD, most likely to avoid further debate during negotiations. If the GA did not include it in the resolution asking ECOSOC to consider preparations for the International Year of the Family, it would be seen as pushy, and even arrogant, for the EU to stall negotiations at CSocD over the same point.

The issue, perhaps not so obviously, is that the phrase means more than just non-traditional families (e.g. single mothers, divorcees, pluri-divorcees, non-married couples) or polygamist families (in several african and arab countries). That is how the language is being sold to delegates from traditional countries. “It is inclusive,” they are told. But that does not explain why the phrase has become suddenly essential over the last ten years. The real question is whether or not the phrase is designed to give same-sex couples the same legal standing in international law and policy as the natural family. 

A sufficient majority of UN member states treat it as if it were. But several delegates seem to be swayed by the inclusivity argument.

It is likely that the push from the EU for this new language qualifying “family” is not is designed to recognize the re-definition of the family that has taken place in decadent western societies, and not to include forms of the family that were never considered excluded from the definition of the family in the first place. If the suggested innocuous reading of the phrase “various forms” as simply referring to “irregular”, “non-traditional”, or polygamist families were true, all of those families have been excluded from every mention of the family in previous UN documents? Certainly not the case.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights both state unequivocally that the “family is the natural and fundamental unit of society.” Those international instruments probably cover everything and anything under the sun that involved a man and/or a woman and their biological offspring, but not same-sex couples.

For now, It is enough to raise the specter of LGBT rights to put delegates from traditional countries off from even entertaining that phrase. Perhaps that is not a bad thing. But in the touchy-feely moral morass of our day that may not be enough to ensure that the natural family carries the day in the long run. After all, it would be excluding someone (same-sex couples) from the definition of family. God forbid anybody is excluded at the UN!

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Turtle Bay and Beyond is a blog covering international law, policy and institutions. Our experts - at the UN, European Institutions, and elsewhere - explore an authentic understanding of international law, sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. We expose those who would seek to impose a radical social vision that is contrary to these principles.

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