Our tradition is equality and human rights – not oppression

Back to all Motions

2013 National Women's Conference
18 October 2012

Conference notes with concern that in September 2012 the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council adopted a resolution from Russia which linked human rights to ‘traditional values’ by a vote of 25 in favour and 15 against, with 7 states abstaining.

This resolution was an unmistakable attempt to try to block the progress of women’s rights and lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. It is part of a political agenda by Russia to advance a conservative view of “tradition” that will be used to try to restrict human rights, and seeks to legitimise what is happening inside Russia, where LGBT pride events are repeatedly banned and a growing number of cities have outlawed ‘homosexual propaganda’, a vague term which can be used to stamp out social and cultural events as well as any community organising.

At the national level, Russia has invoked “traditional values” to advance stereotyped notions of the role of women, to criminalise those who are deemed “immoral” by the state, and to restrict the activities of organisations working on “non-traditional” issues. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted in 2010 that Russia maintains traditional customs and practices that “perpetuate discrimination against women and girls; and that this is reflected in their disadvantageous and unequal status in many areas, including the persistence of harmful traditional practices, honour killings, bridal kidnappings and violence against women”.

Conference notes with further concern Russia’s repeated assertion that the resolution was needed to restore the “moral dimension” of human rights and that Russia has affirmed its intention to continue to present the resolution on an annual basis.

Conference believes that UNISON needs to continue to develop its work with sister unions and other appropriate organisations to defend the universality of human rights and to work towards defeat of this harmful resolution in future years.

It therefore recognizes the importance of continuing to promote and encourage the involvement of women members in international work and the development of international links with women’s organisations and other organisations committed to defending the universality of human rights.

Conference therefore encourages the National Women’s Committee, working with the National Executive Council International Committee, to:

1)Work with regional women’s committees to raise awareness of this issue amongst women members;

2. Continue to encourage regional women’s committees to become involved in international work and to encourage women members to become branch international officers;

3. Seek to raise awareness across UNISON about the importance of messages of solidarity to persecuted human rights defenders;

4. Push the UK governments and devolved assemblies to support the universality of human rights internationally and to work towards the defeat of future similar resolutions on ‘traditional values’.