EU human rights report sends mixed messages on dignity, mistakenly approves surrogacy due to voting errors

12 DECEMBER 2018, STRASBOURG, FRANCE – On Wednesday afternoon, the Plenary Assembly of the European Parliament adopted the Annual report on human rights and democracy in the world 2017 and the European Union’s policy on the matter (2018/2098(INI)).

The report aims at implementing and updating good practices by promoting respect for human rights in all of the EU’s foreign policies. However, the adopted text presents troubling ambiguities and language.

World Youth Alliance Europe (WYAE) monitored all discussions regarding the report, examining the draft and amendments and collaborating with like-minded deputies and partner organizations to ensure respect for international standards on human dignity. This included offering voting recommendations for all the Members of the European Parliament and invited all our European members to address their European representatives in order to improve the content of the report.

WYAE’s main concerns were the marginalization of the role of the family as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (§16.3 “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”). WYAE also supported amendments defining the practice of surrogacy as adverse to human rights, as a previous report had done, prohibiting the sale of children according to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (§7), and assessing how abortion should never be promoted as a method of family planning (Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development – ICPD Programme of Action §8.25).

Fortunately, some controversial language on the role of family in societies was removed, and paragraph § 46 regarding the exploration of ways and means for the EU to accede unilaterally to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was maintained. However, WYAE regrets the rejection of amendment 1 qualifying the practice of surrogacy as undermining to human rights, women’s dignity, and violating bans on the sale of children.

This latter amendment failed to pass for 271 votes against to 270 votes in favour in the initial vote. According to the voting procedures of the European Parliament, after each ballot Members have 24 hours to correct any errors in their vote. Once corrections were made, the amendment reached a final result of 277 votes in favour and 264 against: it would have passed. Unfortunately, this has no legal effect on the re-introduction of a good amendment condemning the practice of surrogacy.

The World Youth Alliance will continue collaborating with our partners and with European Deputies to ensure the respect of human dignity in all future reports of the European Union. To learn more about these topics, please read WYA’s White Papers on Surrogacy, Reproductive Health and Family Planning.