International Day of Families 2019
15 May 2019

Queering SRHR: LGBTIQ Families

To mark pride month, Inspire launches a series of articles called “Queering SRHR” with the goal to dive a little deeper in the various specific ways that SRHR relates to LGBTIQ people.

On the occasion of the upcoming Pride Month, the Inspire Team has decided to launch a three week series called “Queering SRHR” in the hope of raising awareness on current sexual and reproductive health and rights’ struggles, goals and achievements related to intersex, queer, gay, lesbian, bi and trans people. With this series, the goal is also to challenge the binary and heteronormative narratives around sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to encourage colleagues, partners and others to make SRHR discussions all-inclusive.

This is the first article of the “Queering SRHR” series. To read our other articles:

"Queering SRHR: Homo-Bi-Trans No More" click here.

"Queering SRHR: De-pathologising Trans-people" click here.

"Queering SRHR: The need for a trans-specific focus within SRHR" click here.


Queering SRHR: LGBTIQ Families


Every day in Europe, external social, cultural and political factors deeply impact the ways in which LGBTIQ Families experience life events such as marriage, reproduction, parenting etc. because of their chosen gender, identity and sexuality. Analysing the current legal state of LGBTIQ families, one can understand that there are a range of SRHR topics such as adoption, fertility treatment or parental recognition that need to be singularly addressed within the SRHR community because of the different ways in which they are handled in politics, courts and in civil society. The longer we continue not addressing these specifics needs, the more these families continue to be challenged, ignored and discriminated against. It is now time to act together to fight against LGBTIQ inequality.


Why 15 MAY? 


As it was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1994, the world celebrates the International Day of Families’ 25th Anniversary today. On this special day, it is of particular importance to highlight the current state of legal recognition of LGBTIQ families within the European context.


The Yogyakarta Principles


According to Yogyakarta Principle 24, which sets forth the Right to Found a Family: “Families exist in diverse forms. Everyone has the right to found a family, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and no family should be subjected to discrimination because of it.”


But why is this principle important?


In November 2006, 29 distinguished human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to draft, develop, and redefine was are now called the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Sexual Identity.


The YPs were issued to reflect the existing international human rights laws in relation to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity considering the principles of universality and non-discrimination. In the upcoming “Queering SRHR” articles, we will be referring and coming back to these principles to highlight SRHR issues as they relate to LGBTIQ people.


Principle 24 urges States to take specific actions in relation to the right for everyone to found a family. To name a few, States shall: “ensure access to adoptions, assisted procreation, legal surrogacy and fertility treatments”. States shall also ensure that “laws and policies recognise the diversity of families, that birth certificates reflect the self-defined gender identity of the parents and that where same-sex marriages or registered partnerships are recognised, the same measures are applied to both different-sex and same-sex couples.” 


LGBTIQ Families in Europe 


LGBTIQ Family rights have for long been topics of great debate amongst those who believe that the right of the family should be exclusive to cisgender, heterosexual couples. Resisting against extending legal family rights to LGBTIQ families has always been a strong priority in the agendas of right-wing conservatives still present today and seen through the wave anti gender discourse.


In 2019, ILGA Europe’s Annual Review revealed not only a standstill in a significant number of European countries, but also a visible backslide on laws and policies.


Amongst the 49 States analysed, Serbia, Turkey, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Lithuania and Azerbaijan jointly made up the bottom of the rankings with a 0 percent score. Scoring poorly in this case means that the State is failing to uphold the human rights of LGBTIQ persons and to protect them from discrimination, all with respect to the right to found a family. 


Graph 1. LGBTQI Family Rankings


Countries like Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kosovo, Latvia, Montenegro, Moldova, North Macedonia and Ukraine obtained an overall low score because they legally applied only one of the LGBTI Family criteria, either no constitutional limitation on marriage or medically assisted insemination for singles. Applying only one of these criteria cannot define said country as an equal one because excluding other criteria automatically limits the benefits of the one legal criterion. A clear example of this can be seen in the case of Italy. Although the country has recently legalised registered partnerships, its highest court has just ruled that couples who seek surrogacy abroad will not be able to register themselves as co-parents to their children. Regarding adoption and parenting legislations, ILGA Europe also reported that 17 European countries currently allow joint adoption,19 countries allow second parent adoption and only 10 recognise automatic co-parenting. Trans rights are the most ignored ones when it comes to parenting legislation as only 2 countries, Malta and Sweden currently recognise trans parenthood.


Graph 2.Family Criteria per Country in Europe 


It’s not all about setbacks, here is some recent Progress:


In contrast with these worrisome statistics, we did witness some victories on an international scale within the European Union, the UN and the Council of Europe.

On 5th June 2018, the Court of European Justice (CJEU) confirmed that: “the term ‘spouse’ needs to be interpreted as being inclusive of same-sex spouses of EU citizens in the framework of the Freedom of movement directive and that all EU Member States must treat same-sex couples in the same way as different-sex couples when they exercise freedom of movement rights. ” Thanks to this judgement, same-sex spouses of EU nationals must now be recognised and granted residence rights on an equal basis.


In addition to this, UN Women launched a paper around “Exploring a contemporary view of the concept of family in international human rights law and the implications for the Agenda 2030, ensuring that all members of various forms of families in all contexts are protected equally.”


Lastly on 24th October, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution: “Private and family life: achieving equality regardless of sexual orientation.” Adopted by an overwhelming majority, “The resolution is the most advanced statement by any international representative body in support of the rights of rainbow families. It declared as crucial and urgent that European States overcome the discrimination experienced by both adults and children in these families and called for the elimination of all unjustified differences in treatment in the field of private and family life based on grounds of sexual orientation. The resolution also includes important recommendations regarding trans parents, for instance calling on States to recognise the gender identity of trans parents, also in the birth certificate of their children, and to ensure that non-binary parents can have their partnerships and their relationships with their children recognised without discrimination.”


Preliminary Conclusions 


Recently, we have seen progress being made for LGBTIQ families thanks to Court decisions and other entities. At the same time, LGBTIQ families remain existing in spaces and environments where their decisions, structures and wishes continue to be challenged, contested, and rejected, which can lead to serious consequences. Such families continue to disturb heteropatriarchal ideals. In fact though, through the course of these rejections and challenges, people get hurt, children live in limbo situations, others must undergo sterilisation, etc. And this is simply unacceptable. 


First and foremost, we would like partners and allies in the SRHR community to take these issues on board, and to fight for all, let’s together work on queering SRHR, to make it as inclusive as possible and to go beyond the binaries. 


Together let’s start working on Queering SRHR!


  • The Yogyakarta Principles 2006. November 2006.Link.  
  • The Additional Yogyakarta Principles(YP+10. November 2017. Link.
  • ILGA EUROPE Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People May 2019. Link.
  • Rainbow Europe May 2019. Family.Link. 
  • Court of Justice of the European Union. PRESS RELEASE No 80/18 Luxembourg, 5 June 2018. Judgment in Case C-673/16. Link.
  • UN Women. Discussion Paper “ A Contemporary View of “Family” in International Human Rights Law and Implications for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). N. 21, December 2017. Link.
  • Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Resolution 2239. Private and family life: achieving equality regardless of sexual orientation. October 2018. Link.