New vulnerabilities and ancient ones in new contexts

Next month, the III Ibero-American Congress on Family Law and Individual’s Rights will take place in Buenos Aires. The objective of the Congress is to assess the main role that the principle of vulnerability will play in the new family law and individual rights movement that is taking shape in Ibero-American law.

Vulnerability is becoming a key perspective for analyzing the need for equal opportunity in specific scenarios, especially as changing lifestyles and social circumstances expose new vulnerabilities that require innovative responses from the law. At the same time, there are ancient vulnerabilities but the contexts in which they are manifested have changed.

These vulnerabilities include:

  1. Disability, mental health, old age, and child well-being, in the context of marital property systems and amid the consequences of marital breakdown.
  2. New regulations of relationships between couples as they may interfere with the rights of children or women in gender-neutral regulations or because of the trivialization of divorce;
  3. Innovations in reproduction, as new ways of conceiving require special protection of the children and women who choose these assisted human reproduction techniques, and for women contracted in cases of surrogate motherhood.
  4. Parental responsibility in the context of new relationships between couples, or in states of poverty or domestic violence. The law needs to find ways to strengthen the family, even in these situations, in order to provide for the protection of the vulnerable persons involved.
  5. The possibility of the emergence of vulnerabilities in the transfer of property as a result of death. The Law may foresee possible estate planning, in order to avoid future vulnerabilities.

These and several other scenarios pose a challenge for law, demanding protections that will not destroy the autonomy and self-sufficiency of vulnerable persons, but will find a balance between autonomy and protection.   However, regarding autonomy, it is worthwhile pointing out the tension between autonomy and protection. The respect of autonomy requires for this respect not to derive in violations to the human dignity due to abandonment.