UN Women Calls Families “Dark” Place for Women

By | July 5, 2019

NEW YORK, July 5 (C-Fam) Are divorce, cohabitation, same sex marriage, out of wedlock birth and adolescent sex good for women? The latest report from UN Women considers them “a positive reflection of women’s empowerment.” UN Women calls family life “an ambivalent space for women and girls.”

“Families can have a darker side: they can be places of violence and discrimination, spaces where women and girls are often denied the resources they need, where they sometimes eat least and last and where their voices are stifled and their autonomy is denied,” the report says, concluding, “As such, the recognition of families as an ambivalent space for women and girls has been at the heart of this Report.”

Along with darkness and ambivalence, the report is notable for its pragmatic approach to rights, in particular to polygamy. The report acknowledges that human rights law comes down against polygamy and that it is bad for women. Yet it defers to the African human rights document, the Maputo Protocol, which concludes that it is not “pragmatic” to try to change polygamy laws altogether.

This contrasts with the report’s approach to laws recognizing same sex marriage, which the report posits are good for women because they erode the patriarchal nature of the family.

There are indications that the report was hastily published, such as misspellings and grammatical errors, but it appears the report did not undergo review outside ideologically-likeminded reviewers. The report says it was feminist thinkers who “were the first to bring domestic and family issues into the theory and practice of politics and the state” ignoring the well-documented legacies of men and women throughout history who have done so.

The report suffers from a misunderstanding of international human rights law, frequently invoking the personal views of UN expert bodies. The report cites the Yogyakarta Principles, drafted by activists and UN staff, that reinterprets all of human rights law with new meanings on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The report does not mention that such documents are not binding and have been rejected by UN member states. The report nonetheless counts on those governments to enforce the contested interpretations of the law. It aims its recommendations at governments as the “main duty bearers when it comes to human rights” with “power and capacity to bring about legal and policy change” to “the general population.”

“Families are not outside the reach of human rights,” the report says, when arguing that nations much give equal recognition and financial support to cohabiting couples as to legally married couples. In fact, the family, as the “fundamental group unit of society,” according to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” exists prior to the state.

It is a basic principle of human rights that they are unalienable. The rights of married persons, parents, and family members cannot be given or taken away, nor changed in nature, by the state. By failing to accurately represent human rights, by its “dark” and pragmatic view of family life, the report is at best a missed opportunity to give service to the world’s women.