Families In Straitjackets

There’s a bit of a stir going on in Amsterdam and the Hague at the moment. The reason is that the fifth World Family Congress has just opened at the RAI in Amsterdam for its three-day conference. The Dutch Minister for Youth and the Family, André Rouvoet, gave the opening address at the conference. And that was the reason for the stir: many, including fellow politicians in the Parliament in The Hague, felt that he was giving a stamp of approval to a conference that appears to have a very narrow view of what a family is.

Last night’s television news journal had an item on the conference, which included a snippet from Rouvoet’s video address. In part he said:

I’m aware of the outspoken views on the family that many of your organisations have. That’s why I want to challenge you to build bridges.

This was immediately followed by a spokesman from one of the participating organisations (Tradition, Family and Property – the name says it all, really) saying:

I don’t want to build a bridge to nowhere, I’m willing to cross bridges that go somewhere.

In response to a question from the interviewer, he then helpfully clarified that a bridge to gay parenting and gay marriage was a bridge to nowhere. What a surprise. And what really pisses me off is the Orwellian newspeak of it all. For example, the  Howard Center is the think-tank behind the World Congress of Families, and which believes that the “natural human family is founded by the Creator, and is essential for a good society”. The director of the Howard Center, Larry Jacobs, is quoted as saying:

"It is clear that the left is shocked by the family congress because it brings a pro-family message to a city which they claim as their own territory."

There it is: pro-family – a positive-sounding term that actually means a rigid definition of what a family is and that is against any other meaning. It’s a great pity that Mr. Jacobs and others like the spokesman quoted above will never understand that families come in all shapes and sizes. Meanwhile he and his ilk will continue to spout their self-righteous bigotry. I also think it hypocritical. If you read the definition of the family given on the World Congress of Families V own web site, it goes to some pains to widen the narrow definition (man, woman and children) to include “alternatives”, which, it concedes:

If these alternatives have the same quality of love, upbringing and intergenerational transfer as the natural family, then they also belong to the category which we call ‘the family’.

However, the difference between these words and the deeds of the majority of the participants at this congress seem wide indeed, judging by the attitudes that I have seen and read.

But perhaps it’s hardly surprising really, because if you refer back to the Howard Center’s web site, you’ll find a much more hardline approach as to what the family is. Nary a whisper there of “alternatives”; indeed, I see that I’m headed for damnation:

Marriage between a man and a woman forms the sole moral context for natural sexual union. Whether through pornography, promiscuity, incest or homosexuality, deviations from these created sexual norms cannot truly satisfy the human spirit. They lead to obsession, remorse, alienation, and disease.

Here I think we see the true guiding spirit behind this conference: anti-abortion, anti-gay, and anti-secular. Now that sounds like a bridge to nowhere to me.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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