Report of the IACL/AIDC Congress “Family Law and Cultural Diversity”

The second IACL/AIDC congress for which I served as joint rapporteur (with Nadjma Yassari of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law) was devoted to the topic “Family Law and Cultural Diversity”. We proceeded in the same way as for the session on “Law and Migration in a Changing World”, drawing up a very detailed questionnaire intended to ensure that the individual national reports captured the nature of diversity in each country under scrutiny. In some countries, cultural diversity dates back centuries and is enshrined in state law, while in others, the policies in place expressly enforce a homogeneous family law (whether on a secular basis or based on a religious law). In yet others, diversity has come from the outside, via migration, or from within, based on the individual right to self-determination that has become increasingly central with the individualization of ways of life and the emphasis on protection against discrimination.

The reports were therefore expected to indicate whether the country in question had adapted its legislation to take account of the new realities that diversity among the population brings about. One of the chief findings in the resulting volume is that legal systems tend to be more lenient and flexible in accommodating diversity from within than that which comes from outside. For example, in Europe new forms of family life have, under the impetus of human rights and more specifically the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination, now been accepted in most countries, whereas diversity that comes from the outside – via migration or derived from a colonial past – seems to cause more tension.

One region that was of particular interest regarding family law and cultural diversity is central and Eastern Europe in the postsocialist period. It is clear that there is a rift between two orientations in these countries: one tends to emphasize a return to the state’s historic national identity and tries to respond to the perceived threat raised by claims to individual rights, while the other places greater value on the individual freedoms and human rights guaranteed by the EU and the Council of Europe. The volume coming out of the congress is expected to appear with Springer in 2021.[1]

[1] N Yassari and M-C Foblets (eds), Multicultural Challenges in Family Law (Springer, forthcoming).

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