A. Definition of the family
‘24. There is no definition of the family under international human rights law. According to the Human Rights Committee, “the concept of family may differ in some respects from State to State, and even from region to region within a State, and that is therefore “not possible to give the concept a standard definition.” Similarly, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated that the concept must be understood “in a wide sense” and “in accordance with appropriate local usage.” Other international human rights mechanisms have expressed similar views.
25. The concept of family may also differ according to the specific rights and responsibilities at stake. For instance, in relation to rights of the child, the concept of the family may include a variety of arrangements that can provide for young children's care, nurturance and development, including the nuclear family, the extended family, and other traditional and modern community-based arrangements, provided these are consistent with the rights and the best interest of children. Likewise, the notion of “family environment” in the Convention on the Rights of the Child may encompass children’s social ties in a wider sense. The Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families defines the family as encompassing all relationships that, under applicable law, “produces effects equivalent to marriage” (arts. 4, 44(2)).
26. States retain a margin of appreciation in defining the concept of family in national legislation, taking into consideration the various legal systems, religions, customs or traditions within the country, including indigenous and minority cultures. However, international standards set forth at least two minimum conditions for the recognition and protection of families at the national level: first, the respect for the principle of equality and non-discrimination, including the equal treatment of women; and second, the effective guarantee of the best interest of the child. Given these parameters, human rights mechanisms have found that some forms of relation, such as polygamy and child marriage are contrary to international human rights standards and should be prohibited.
27. In addition to the above principles, international mechanisms have called upon States to protect specific forms of family in view of the vulnerability of their members in relations to the enjoyment of human rights. For instance, the international mechanisms have drawn attention to the discrimination suffered by women and children in de facto unions, and have called for the regulation of those unions in domestic law. In similar terms, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has called upon States to provide legal recognition of same-sex couples.‘
E. Social security
‘66. In Argentina, family allowances cover various family situations, such as marriage, birth, or adoption, as well as an annual child allowance is provided to families with children of school age. In addition, a Universal Child Allowance (AUH) is provided to families in certain circumstances, including those in which parents are unemployed, earn a salary equal or minor to the national minimum salary, work in the informal sector, or are domestic or seasonal workers.
67. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the main social security instruments of the countries’ territorial entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Law on Social Protection, Protection of Civilian War Victims and Families with Children (1999), and the Republika Srpska’s Law on Social Protection (1993), provide maternity allowance during the period of pregnancy and childbirth.
68. In the Russian Federation, under the provisions of the Federal Law on State Subsidies to Individuals with Children (1995), the State provides one-time allowance for child birth as well as monthly child allowances to single-parent families.
69. In Sweden, the Parental Leave Act affords both mothers and fathers the right to be on parental leave from work, as well as extended family leave and reduced working hours. Swedish social security grants parents economic compensation for income loss when staying at home with the child. In addition, the Government grants automatic financial support for all children who have residence in the country.‘
F. Other social protection measures
‘70. In Argentina, the Bicentenary Credit Plan Single Family Housing (PROCREAR) includes the concession of mortgages for the construction of repair of family homes. Hungary provides a social housing subsidy to families wishing to buy, build or expand a house. In the Russian Federation, housing programmes target families with special needs, such as young families and large families. Modalities include access to credit, affordable mortgages, and land allotments. In Sweden, housing allowances are granted to families with children living at home, as well as to low-income families.
71. As part of the National Plan on Food Security, in Argentina the “Pro-Orchard” (Pro-Huerta) programme contributes to improving and diversifying family nutrition. In Colombia, the Network of Food Security (ReSA) supports families with access to food and education on healthy consumption patterns. In addition, the IRACA program supports food security with an ethnically differentiated approach. Mexico implements a variety of programmes in support of disadvantaged families under the Integral Strategy of Social Food Assistance. Likewise, Saudi Arabia implements emergency cash and food programmes as part of wider government efforts to support low income families and families in crisis situations.‘