Article XI. Family relations and family ties  

1.     The family is the natural and basic unit of societies and must be respected and protected by the state.  Consequently the state shall recognize and respect the various forms of indigenous family, marriage, family name and filiation.  

In determining the child's best interest in matters relating to the protection and adoption of children of members of indigenous peoples, and in matters of breaking of ties and other similar circumstances, consideration shall be given by courts and other relevant institutions to the of the peoples, including individual, family and community views.




1.        American Convention on Human Rights (OAS 1969)  

Article 17: (1) “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state. (2) The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to raise a family shall be recognized, if they meet the conditions required by domestic laws...(4) In case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children solely on the basis of their own best interests.”


Article 18: “Every person has the right to a given name and to the surnames of his parents or that of one of them.”


Article 19: “Every minor child has the right to the measures of protection required by his condition as a minor on the part of his family, society, and the state.”  

2.        American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (OAS 1948)


Article VI: “Every person has the right to establish a family, the basic element of society, and to receive protection therefore.”  

3.        Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social And Cultural Rights (OAS 1988)  

Article 15: Right to the Formation and the Protection of Families.


1.         "The family is the natural and fundamental element of society and ought to be protected by the State, which should see to the improvement of its spiritual and material conditions."  


4.        International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN 1966)


Article 17: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home.”


Article 23 (1): “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”


Article 23(2): “The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.”


Article 23(4): “In the case of dissolution [of marriage], provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.”  

5.        International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN 1966)


Article 10(1): …“The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that: The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society”...

Article 10(3): “Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions.”  

6.        Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN 1989)  

Article 3(1): “In all actions concerning children the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration.“


Article 5: “State Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights, and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized the present Convention.”  

7.        Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948)  

Article 16(1)(3): “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.  They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution...The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”


Article 25(2): “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance."  

8.        African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Banjul Charter 1981)  

Article 18(1)(2): “The family shall be the natural unity and basis of society.  It shall be protected by the State which shall take care of its physical health and moral.  The State shall have the duty to assist the family which is the custodian of morals and traditional values recognized by the community.”  

9.        European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ROME 1950)  

Article 8(1): “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”  

10.      Treaty on Central American Social Integration, signed by the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, Cerro Verde, Republic of El Salvador (March 30, 1995)  

"Principles: The States Parties to the present Treaty will act in accordance with the following

principles: The view of family as the essential nucleus of society and focus of social policy."

11.      Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, Denmark, March 6-12, 1995)  

Annex II:  Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development Content.

Chapter II. Eradication of Poverty.

Para. D(39): "Particular efforts should be made to protect children and youth by: (g) Addressing the special needs of indigenous children and their families, particularly those living in poor areas, enabling them to benefit adequately from economic and social development programmes, with full respect for their cultures, languages and traditions;."  

12.        Program of Immediate Actions Derived from the Declaration of San Salvador II for the Investment in Human Capital signed  by signed the Presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama and the Prime Minister of Belize, El Costa Verde, Republic of El Salvador (March 30, 1995)  

"To elaborate a proposal for bringing up to date and harmonizing national legislation regarding the family in the new context of protection and promotion of family rights."  


13.      Brazil

                        Constituiao da República Federativa do Brasil  

Artigo 231: “Sao reconhecido aos índios sua organizacao social, costumes, línguas, crencas e tradicoes."  

14.      Canada

                   Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples , Vol 3 Recommendations


“The government of Canada acknowledge a fiduciary responsibility to support Aboriginal nations and their communities in restoring Aboriginal families to a state of health and wholeness.”  


“Federal, provincial and territorial governments promptly acknowledge that the field of family law is generally a core area of Aboriginal self-governing jurisdiction, in which Aboriginal nations can undertake self-starting initiatives without prior federal, provincial or territorial agreements.”  


“Federal, provincial and territorial governments acknowledge the validity of Aboriginal customary law in areas of family law, such as marriage, divorce, child custody and adoption, and amend their legislation accordingly.”  

15.      Chile  

                   Ley  No. 19.253  

Artículo 4: "Para todos los efectos legales, la posesión notoria del estado civil del padre, madre, cónyuge o hijo se considerará como título suficiente para constituir en favor de los indígenas los mismos derechos y obligaciones que, conforme a las leyes comunes, emanen de la filiación lejítima y del matrimonio civil. Para acreditarla bastará la información testimonial de parientes o vecinos, que podrá rendirse en cualquier gestión judicial, o un informe de la Corporación suscrito por el Director. Se entenderá que la mitad de los bienes pertenecen al marido y la otra mitad a su cónyuge, a menos que conste que los terrenos han sido aportados por sólo uno de los cónyuges".  

16.      United States  

- Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, 25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq. & implementing regulations, 25 CFR Pt. 23:  

§1901: acknowledging failure of States in child custody proceedings “to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.”  

§1902: “it is the policy of this Nation to protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.”


§1911(a)(b): recognizing exclusive jurisdiction of tribal courts to indigenous child custody proceedings and obligation of a State court to transfer such cases to tribal jurisdiction (some exceptions to both) and


§1911(c): giving Indian custodian “right to intervene at any point” in a child custody proceeding.


§1911(d): the courts throughout the United States “shall give full faith and credit to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of any Indian tribe applicable to Indian child custody proceedings.”


§1912(a): duty of a State court in involuntary custody proceeding of indigenous child to “notify the parent or Indian custodian and the Indian child’s tribe...”


§1912(f): establishing high standards before the termination of parental rights or the foster placement of an Indian child can be completed


§1915: “In any adoptive placement of an Indian child under State law, a preference shall be given, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, to a placement with (1) a member of the child’s extended family  [”as defined by the law or custom of the Indian child’s tribe” (§1902(2))]; (2) other members of the Indian child’s tribe; or (3) other Indian families.”


25 CFR Pt. 23.3: “The policy of the Act and of these regulations is to protect Indian children from arbitrary removal from their families and tribal affiliations by establishing procedures to insure that measures to prevent the breakup of Indian families are followed in child custody proceedings. This will insure protection of the best interests of Indian children and Indian families by providing assistance and funding to Indian tribes and Indian organizations in the operation of child and family service programs which reflect the unique values of Indian culture and promote the stability and security of Indian families.”

17.      Guatemala  

Constitución Política de la República de Guatemala  

Artículo 66:  “Protección a grupos étnicos.  EI Estado reconoce, respeta y promueve sus formas de vida, costumbres, tradiciones, formas de organización social.”  

18.      Panama  

Régimen Especial de la Comarca Kuna Yala (Ley 2 de 1938 -modificada por la Ley 99 de 1998)  

Artículo 67: "La unión de un hombre y una mujer Kuna, de conformidad con las normas consuetudinarias vigentes en Comara, tendrán efectos civiles”.  

19.      Paraguay  

Constitución de la República de Paraguay  

Artículo 63: De la Identidad étnica: Tienen derecho, asimismo, a aplicar libremente sus  sistemas de organización política, social, económica, cultural y religiosa, al igual que la voluntaria sujeción a sus normas consuetudinarias para la regulación de la convivencia interior siempre que ellas no atenten contra los derechos fundamentales establecidos en esta Constitución.  En los conflictos jurisdiccionales se tendrá en cuenta el derecho consuetudinario indígena”.    

20.      Mexico  

                   -Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos  

Artículo 4: ...”La ley protegerá y promoverá el desarrollo de sus lenguas, culturas, usos, costumbres, recursos y formas específicas de organización social...Esta protegerá la organización y el desarrollo de la familia”...  

- Ley de derechos de los pueblos y comunidades indígenas del Estado de Oaxaca  

Artículo 29: "El Estado de Oaxaca reconoce la validez de las normas internas de los pueblos y comunidades indígenas en el ámbito de las relaciones familiares, de la vida civil, de la organización de la vida comunitaria y en general de la prevención y solución de conflictos al interior de cada comunidad, siempre y cuando no contravengan la Constitución Política del Estado, las Leyes Estatales vigentes ni vulneren derechos humanos ni de terceros”.


Artículo 45: "El Estado reconoce las diversas formas de organización de las familias indígenas como base de reproducción y sustentación de los pueblos indígenas de Oaxaca”.  

21.      Nicaragua  

                   Constitución de Nicaragua  

Artículo 89: “Las Comunidades de la Costa Atlántica tienen el derecho de preservar y desarrollar su identidad cultural en la unidad nacional; dotarse de sus propias formas de organización”.  

Artículo 180: ...”Las Comunidades de la Costa Atlántica tienen el derecho de vivir y desarrollarse bajo las formas de organización social que corresponden a sus tradiciones y históricas y culturales”...


 [ Table of Contents | Previous | Next ]