Family relations, law and gender in the European Court of Human Rights
What kind of relations are recognised as family relations in Europe? What kind of relations are protected by human rights norms? This study is a sociological analysis of selected case law from the European Court of Human Rights that touches upon cohabitation, marriage and parental relations in the areas of family law and human rights law. The primary material analysed consists of judgments and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights between 1979 and 2014. This provides an opportunity to analyse the importance of biological, legal, social and gendered relations to family relations in different national and historical contexts. The study develops a notion of relational subjectivity framed by perspectives from feminist legal theory, relational sociology and contemporary debates on the law and politics of family formation. A historical shift from emphasising marital status and legal sex towards questions of individual identity such as sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic origins and genealogy may be identified in the case law. Most importantly, the notion of an individual rights holder is examined from a relational perspective inspired by sociological and anthropological theory and gender studies in law, emphasising the importance of life-sustainingrelations of care and dependency. It is argued that from a humann rights perspective, the need for a gender-sensitive approach is accentuated in contemporary contexts of family formation, as complex issues such as knowledge of one’s genetic origins and the inalienability of human rights in processes of bodily reproduction crop up in many contexts, of which case law of the European Convention on Human Rights is just one among many.