Urgent action needed on harmful 'Protection of the Family' resolution

Civil society and States must urge the Human Rights Council to ensure that the resolution on the 'protection of the family' does not undermine international human rights standards or set back the Council’s own work in the areas of child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, violence against women and sexual abuse of children.

(Geneva) – A resolution proposed by a group of States at the UN Human Rights Council has the potential to dangerously narrow the definition of ‘family’ and expose individuals within families to an increased risk of harm from other family members, the International Service for Human Rights said today. ISHR is calling on both civil society and States to take action against the resolution.

‘This resolution misuses international standards to imply that “the family” is a subject of human rights protection in and of itself. This approach risks subverting the rights of individuals, including women and children, to the “rights” of the family. In so doing, it increases their vulnerability to human rights abuses that are regrettably frequent within families, including domestic violence, early and forced marriage, marital rape, and the sexual abuse of children,’ said said Pooja Patel of ISHR.

The lead sponsors of the resolution have also deliberately chosen to exclude previously-agreed UN language that recognises that ‘in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist’.

This approach is a step towards cementing the patriarchal and heteronormative family and is part of a broader, long-term strategy of some States, also advanced within several UN fora (including the CPD, CSW, UPR and Post-2015 development framework process), which has the potential to cause regress in advances made in women’s rights, children’s rights and LGBTI rights.


A cross-regional group of thirteen States (Bangladesh, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Uganda) tabled a draft resolution entitled ‘Protection of the Family’ at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 19 June 2014. The draft resolution calls on the Council to convene a panel discussion on ‘the issue of the protection of the family’ in September 2014, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the year of the family. The draft text virtually replicates an initiative introduced during the March 2013 session of the Council, which was withdrawn due to the lack of support.

As in 2013, a number of States and civil society organizations are voicing concern that the resolution does not have a human rights focus in that it attempts to establish the family itself as a subject of human rights protection and does not:

  • Situate individual family members as the appropriate subjects of human rights protection against violations and abuses;
  • Recognize that human rights violations and abuses often occur within families and may be perpetrated against individual family members who are entitled to benefit from State measures to prevent, protect against, and remedy such violations and abuses; and
  • Acknowledge that various forms of the family exist, including single-parent households, same-sex-parented households, child-headed families, joint families, extended families, families without children, families of divorced individuals, intergenerational families, etc.

The co-sponsoring States have not incorporated any of the recommendations addressing these concerns into the resolution as tabled. Furthermore, co-sponsoring States have presented this resolution as a very benign initiative that is largely procedural, and as such are gaining success in garnering support from a large number of States from different regions of this world.

Actions required

It is unlikely that many delegations will vote against this resolution, as no State wants to appear as ‘anti-family.’ As such, we need to ensure that, at a minimum, the language of the resolution is reoriented to focus on the protection of human rights in the family and that it recognises various forms of the family by:

  • Changing the title of the resolution to ‘human rights in the family’ or ‘human rights and the family’ or ‘protection of human rights in the family and of its members’ or ‘support for all families’, which are all alternative titles proposed during informal consultations but were not taken on board by the co-sponsors; and
  • Incorporating previously-agreed UN language which recognises that ‘in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist’.
What can you do?
  • Contact your country’s Foreign Ministry indicating:
    1. Your expectation that they support the resolution only if changes to the language are made; and
    2. Your concerns with this resolution.

As this resolution will be voted on either Thursday 26 June or Friday 27 June, it is important for you to contact your government as soon as possible. Contact details for the Foreign Ministry of each country can be found at:

  • Contact your permanent missions in Geneva directly by phone, fax or email voicing the same concerns. A list of Geneva missions is available at:
  • Forward this action alert to other supportive NGOs.


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