Austin Dacey shines a light on a treaty being proposed by Christian right groups at the United Nations. The “Declaration on the Rights of Children and Their Families” is cleverly disguised as a human rights agreement that protects children and the rights of parents, but what it really does is push an anti-gay, anti-choice agenda.
The contents of the Declaration, as well as its pseudo-legal tone, reveal it immediately as a polemic. It supplies us with a primer on the ongoing rhetorical appropriation of human rights discourse on the family by U.S. conservative activists and a coalition of UN member states, helpfully condensed onto three handsome sheets of parchment paper.
The “right to life” in Article I extends to unborn life:
Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before, as well as after birth.
Article II, “Each Child has the Right to a Family,” draws on canonical language from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR):
Recognizing that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
In Article III we learn that this right to a family is “the right to a married mother and father.”:
Recognizing that children and youth who reside in a stable, intact family with a married mother and father, generally exhibit greater well-being in every measurable indicator including physically, socially, emotionally, economically and academically; and that the child shall have the right, as far as possible, to know and be cared for by his or her parents (CRC Art. 7);
We call upon States Parties and the United Nations system to discourage sexual relations and childbearing outside of the marital bond, and to promote the institution of marriage as the best environment for children.
The article on religion is noteworthy for affirming a positive “Right to a Religion”—in contrast to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, the standard in accepted international instruments. Here again, the Declaration cites the UDHR but omits its crucial inclusion of the “freedom to change” belief and highlights “the right of parents to guide the moral and religious education of their children.”
Who is the UN Family Rights Caucus? I asked Michael De Dora, who was at the Human Rights Council in his capacity as the UN representative for the Washington-based secularist NGO Center for Inquiry (full disclosure: a position I once held). He pointed me to co-moderator, Sharon Slater, a conservative Mormon who is notorious among progressives for her globetrotting activism against LGBTQ equality and public health policies that include condom use.
Slater’s Family Watch International (FWI) has been deeply involved in promoting abstinence-and fidelity-only initiatives in Uganda and has praised Nigeria—where same-sex couples can face up to 14 years in prison or stoning at the hands of Sharia courts—as “a strong role model” for other regional governments “on how to hold on to their family values despite intense international pressure.”
The Human Rights Campaign has reported that FWI’s annual, invitation-only global policy forum for UN delegates often includes testimonials from people “cured” of “homosexuality” by conversion therapy. According to FWI literature, “so-called ‘homosexual rights’ are driving much of the current worldwide assault on marriage, the family and family related issues.”
So, the usual suspects doing the usual things — and appropriating the language of human rights in defense of an agenda that blatantly rejects that very idea.