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Published On: Fri, Jan 29th, 2016

United Nations report: ‘there is no definition of the family’

A draft UN report says the family should be understood “in a wide sense” and tries to open the door to recognize same-sex couples in international law and policy.

“There is no definition of the family under international human rights law,” according to a report on “protection of the family” prepared by the UN staff and released last week ahead of the next session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The report touches on the family, human rights, and social and economic development, and downplays the legally binding understanding of the family as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society” in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international treaties that implicitly exclude same-sex relationships from the meaning of family in international law and policy.

photo Marcus Werthmann

photo Marcus Werthmann

Several binding legal provisions from human rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are referenced in the report, which all exclude the possibility of recognizing same-sex relationships in international law and policy.

At the same time, the report lists recent laws that make same-sex relationships equivalent to the family in a few countries in a section of the report that surveys family laws and policies.

The report also cites the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which declares the family to be “the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children,” and at the same time it elevates “a variety of arrangements” to provide and care for children as capable of constituting a family—explicitly declaring it the equivalence of “the nuclear family, the extended family, and other traditional and modern community-based arrangements” for purposes of international policy.

These contradictions were also borne out by non-governmental organizations and academics in a consultation that took place in the fall during the preparation of the report.

Many pro-family organizations, including C-Fam, publisher of the Friday Fax, submitted written comments and observations to the UN human rights office, to support the longstanding understanding of the family in international law and policy.

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