Joint letter to the Tunisian government: Support amendments to the UNHRC resolution on Protection of the Family

Joint letter to the Tunisian government: Support amendments to the UNHRC resolution on Protection of the Family - Civic Space

Dear President of the National Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar

Dear Prime Minister Mahdi Jomaa

As you will be aware, Tunisia is a lead member of the core-group behind the resolution on “Protection of the Family” at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which will be considered for adoption at the closing of the 26th Session this week.

ARTICLE 19 Tunisia, the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, the Association for Equality and Gender Parity, the Vigilant Association for Democracy and a Civic State, the Association of Tunisian Women for Research Development, the Women in Business Association, The Rights Association for an Indivisible Nation and the League of Tunisian Women Elected Officials wish to share with you a number of concerns we have with this initiative.

We are concerned that the resolution, although intended to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of ‘the International Year of the Family’, may be abused in order to undermine the human rights of individuals within the family. The resolution therefore departs from the Human Rights Council’s mandate to promote and protect the human rights of all persons. In particular, we fear it could be abused by some States to reinforce cultural and political narratives which justify discrimination against marginalised groups, including with respect to their freedom of expression and public participation rights.

We welcome the great importance attached to gender equality in the recently adopted Tunisian constitution. However, we fear that the “Protection of the Family” resolution fails to live up to the promise of these commitments, and without amendment may have a negative impact on Tunisia’s international standing with regard to human rights.

As civil society organisations working on human rights and equality issues, we therefore respectfully urge the Tunisian government to make the following oral amendments to the text of the resolution, and to otherwise withdraw their support:

  • Change the title of the resolution and the title of the panel discussion (in OP1) to “Protection of Human Rights in the Family”;
  • Recognise throughout the text that various forms of the family exist and that the human rights of individuals in all forms of families deserve equal protection.

These amendments would address concerns that human rights are not sufficiently central to the text as it is currently drafted, and would also reflect the diversity of families that exist in different countries, including in Tunisia.

We note in this regard the amendment tabled by Chile, Uruguay, France, and Ireland, and the widespread support the language of their proposed amendment received throughout informal negotiations. That amendment would revise OP 1 of the draft resolution to read:

“Decides to convene at its Twenty Seventh session, a panel discussion on the protection of the family, and its members to address the implementation of States’ obligations under relevant provisions of international human rights law, and discuss challenges and best practices in this regard, bearing in mind that in different cultural, political and social systems various forms of the family exist.

We strongly encourage the Tunisian government to urge the core-group to incorporate that amendment orally into its own initiative. In particular, we note that this language fully places human rights at the centre of the initiative, while fully capturing the diverse forms of families that exist in all countries, including in Tunisia. This would encompass protection for individuals in families headed by single-parents, which are often women who are widowed, separated or divorced; and would include families headed by orphaned children, extended, inter-generational, and joint families.

We also note that this proposal is based entirely on agreed UN language from the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, and therefore would likely bring States together to support this initiative and avoid further divisions.[1]

At the same time, we are alarmed that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have tabled language to amend the resolution in a manner that would further divide and polarise this debate. We believe it deliberately omits language on equality, and goes against the stated purpose of the resolution. We respectfully ask that the Tunisian government make clear that it does not approve of this amendment.

We look forward to your support in this matter,

Yours Sincerely,

ARTICLE 19-Saloua Ghazouani Tunisia

Saida Rashid, President of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women

Faiza Skandrani, President of the Association of Equality and Gender Parity

Naziha Rjiba, President of the Vigilance Association for Democracy and Civic State

Saloua Kennou, President of the Association of Tunisian Women for Research on Development

Najoua Kouraichi, President of the Women in Business Association

Dhouha Bouzid, President of the Association for Human Rights for Indivisibility and Solidarity for the Nation

Besma Sudani, President of the Tunisian League of Women Voters

Hafidha Chekir, University Professor

[1] Human Rights Council Resolution 7/29; UN GA resolution 27/2; UN GA resolution 59/147, see also: International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) POA, at para. 5.1.