Human Rights Council Shelves Families to “Protect” Children

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

GENEVA, April 5 (C-FAM) The Human Rights Council set aside a resolution to protect the family as member states focused instead on a controversial resolution which could expose children to early sexualization and abortion, and would undermine the rights of parents.

Western nations did their best to make sure a resolution on “protection of the family” was not adopted at the session of the Council that concluded March 22. The resolution builds on recent resolutions that recognize the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society.

An “urgent alert” from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), a group that promotes abortion and sexual rights, suggests why Western nations don’t like family policies. AWID denounced the family resolution as the “thin end of the wedge” that will undermine access to abortion and homosexual rights, a “ploy to cement the traditional family as a subject of human rights protection in and of itself.” UN treaties already recognize the family composed of man and woman, as well as other forms of families, as a subject of rights – just not families headed by homosexual couples.

A controversial resolution on the “right of the child to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health” occupied delegates to the detriment of the resolution on the family.

Several UN member states “rejected” a report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) meant to inform the resolution on children’s rights to health. The report spoke of access to abortion, contraception and information without regard for parental rights, as well as special new rights for homosexual youth. The unusually harsh reception for the report had an immediate impact on negotiations.

The final resolution, adopted unanimously by the council, is fairly uncontroversial. Despite some ambiguous language about sexual and reproductive health, it re-affirms the important role of the family in the upbringing of children and does not recognize any new right to confidentiality in the provision of services or information to children. UN member states “took note” of the OHCHR report in the resolution, which is tantamount to ignoring it.

The strong pushback against the OHCHR report colored the work of much of the session. There was no follow-up to a 2011 resolution on violence and discrimination against persons because of sexual orientation and gender identity. Several UN members asked last year that those issues never be discussed again.

Despite fears that votes were stacked against family-friendly nations following a change in membership last year, the council still holds promise for supporters of the family. UN member states adopted a resolution to reform the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a UN body whose leadership promotes abortion, homosexuality, and sexual autonomy for children within the UN system.

The resolution reflects some member states’ discontent with the geographical representation among OHCHR staff. Some pro-family nations view OHCHR staff as insensitive and unresponsive to different cultural and normative frameworks of their regions, especially in developing countries.

If the resolution on “protection of the family” is adopted in the summer or fall session of the council, a panel on the implementation of state obligations to protect the family will be held next year.

Stefano Gennarini is Director of the Center for Legal Studies at the Catholic Family and Human Right Institute (C-FAM). Her article first appeared in FridayFax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM. C-FAM is a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org).

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