An extra-terrestrial paying a short visit to this planet and having a schedule tight enough allowing it to stay only in the United Nations may have got a pretty incomplete idea about the current human perspective on the family.
On the one hand, it may have definitely noticed that the United Nations gets together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
It should have noticed that the moral beacon of freedom of humankind – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – continue to state clearly that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state”.
It could also not fail to observe that the norms of international law continue to recognise only this natural family that is based on marriage of men and women of full age and aimed at procreating and breeding children.
Yet many important things may have escaped an inquisitive eye of the alien.
Looking at this world exclusively through the lens of the UN documents, it may have overlooked the fact that some national governments regard this perspective on the sanctity of the family and marriage as dated.
It may have been oblivious to an increasing number of national governments questioning – by their action – the validity of maxims of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – especially so on the family, as well as on freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief – and effectively no longer regarding them as sacrosanct and tenable.
It may have left the Earth unaware of the true depth of this world’s collective entanglement and that, were it today, these, otherwise united, nations, most probably, wouldn’t have agreed on holding an International Year of the Family.
Discussing the role of family-oriented and family-centred policies and programmes is important.
Yet this discussion runs the risk of becoming marginal if, here in the United Nations, we continue to keep prudently silent about the real challenge the institution of the family faces today.
What I intend to say may sound harsh. Yet, as someone coming from the part of the world that in the 20th century was engaged in extensive social experimentation and engineering – often with tragic results, I feel I have a moral obligation to share with you my point of view in a blunt manner.
The name of this challenge for the family is an attempt to blur the moral points of reference the family has traditionally been providing.
The name of this challenge is an attempt to apply the absolute of homocentrism to re-definition of the role of the family in society.
Significant strides of the past decades in human liberation apparently have tempted some governments to test the limits of the possible on the family.
Even in name, our most honourable initiatives – like ‘Rights Up Front’, for instance – inadvertently reveal our growing sense of entitlement to as many rights and freedoms as we could claim and often so at the expense of our sense of responsibility for the state of our environment – natural and social.
Yet, as we all know, human wants and needs are endless. Where do we stop?
When do we understand that not everything that can be done should be done?
Just as we have to learn to live on our planet without destroying it, so we have to learn to respect the fragility of our social environment.
It goes without saying that we have to display our bravest best to prevent mistreatment, harassment and persecution of our fellow human beings on the grounds of their otherness – be it race, ethnicity, religion, beliefs or sex.
Yet the success of this effort can be easily subverted by the cavalry attack of going over the top, demanding the impossible.
While having every reason to go ‘all out’ in preventing negative discrimination in our society, we have to be twice as careful about the positive discrimination of concepts we choose to propagate, of the trends and mores we want to encourage.
In a tragically ironic twist of fate, giving in to the extreme of permissiveness in one part of the world resonates with an upsurge of the extreme of animosity and hate in another. It does look like the logic of communicating vessels, indeed.
Unless in our decision-making we manage to strike the right balance between the rights advocacy, on the one hand, and a clear sense of responsibility, moderation and restraint, on the other, we may risk rupturing the fabric of our society as it is already seen as happening on the matters of the family in the opinion of hundreds of millions of concerned people all over the world. Take a look at the family that through its very own foundations provides invaluable prompts about the ways of living in this world sustainably and responsibly: besides being a source of empowerment and protection, the loving and caring family instills in its members a clear sense of the limits, an understanding of the boundaries of the acceptable, the very notion of the ’golden mean’ and moderation.
Today Belarus presents her perspective on the family openly and firmly. We strongly believe in sanctity of the traditional family and we intend not to spare any effort to uphold within the United Nations its values and role in life of the society.
We call upon all concerned Member States to be vocal and strong in defending the family values we cherish.
Today the family badly needs our protection. It is an uphill battle and it will not be won by our silence or avoiding an inconvenient subject. To rely solely on the protective power of the wording of existing international and national instruments would also be a weak strategy.
One can wait out a storm but the only viable response to the current challenge to the institution of the family – including here, in the United Nations – is engagement – in debate, action and advocacy.
We have to provide to the family the best support from the state by giving it the priority it deserves in our political and social strategies.
We should recognise the strengthening of the family as one of the key sustainable development goals.
Some say in response – let us not over-emphasise this delicate issue beyond paying traditional lip service to it; this is not a big deal – let the social innovators deal with the consequences of their actions within their national borders; let us not touch this Pandora’s box.
Well, this box is no longer sealed. May no-one be lulled into thinking that national borders provide immunity to the corruptible influence of relativism on the matters of the family. We all know that in the age of globalisation no border is impermeable – not for the things that do not require a visa to cross it.
Whether we admit it or not, the truly civilisational gap in the way that we understand the family and its role in society has not just been charted but is already deepening.
Twenty years after the International Year of the Family we stand at the crossroads. We can either watch the foundations of the family destroyed and the traditional family values sacrificed in the name of artificial social constructs – all under the guise of proliferation of human rights – or we can raise our voice in defense of the natural family, in defense of motherhood and fatherhood as inalienable attributes of the human self.
It is not at all common for people around the world to follow the day-to-day UN business with bated breath. Yet our action or inaction on the family in the United Nations will be one of the rare occasions when the world will be really watching.