In a statement to the UN Human Rights Council, endorsed by IHEU, World Population Foundation representative Diana Brown called on the Council to defend the human rights of all and not to attempt to defend religions against the human rights of people.
World Population Foundation
Human Rights Council, Sixth Session 10 – 28 September 2007
Agenda Item 9 – Defamation of Religions
Statement by WPF main representative, Diana M. Brown, 21 September 2007
Defamation of Religion
We are deeply concerned by the possible negative impact of the repeated resolutions here, and in the UN General Assembly, “Combating Defamation of Religions”.
In our work of promoting reproductive health and rights we often find ourselves being opposed by religious leaders. In our programs for sex education for young people in Africa it is more often than not the churches who oppose us, believing that ignorance in matters of human reproduction is better than knowledge. In Africa, many campaigns for AIDS prevention have been cut back or replaced entirely by religiously-inspired and totally ineffective campaigns promoting abstinence only – in a continent where abstinence is simply not an option for many young girls. And we actually find some church leaders telling lies about the efficacy of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In March this year we presented to the Council a paper on the cruel practice of child marriage [A/HRC/4/NGO/84] . In some countries we are told that this blight on the lives of young girls has divine sanction, and that to criticise it is tantamount to blasphemy – defamation of religion.
Mr President, if States use the Council resolutions combating defamation of religions to justify legislation along similar lines, then there is clearly a grave danger that the effect will be to stifle opposition to religiously-sanctioned human rights abuse.
We would like to bring to the attention of the Council two recent recommendations by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, one of which states unequivocally that human rights must take precedence over religious principles, and the second of which opposes any attempts to criminalise blasphemy (or “defamation of religion”)
We believe that the Council resolutions combating defamation of religions are inappropriate and misguided. It is people that merit protection, Mr President, not their beliefs. We would suggest that member States would do better to consider a resolution combating religious obstruction to the enjoyment of human rights.
It is the responsibility of this Council to defend the human rights of all, whoever may be opposed to them. It is surely not the responsibility of this Council to defend religions against the human rights of people.
Thank you sir.
Notes from Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Recommendation 1804 (2007) State, religion, secularity and human rights
17. Nor may states allow the dissemination of religious principles which, if put into practice, would violate human rights. If doubts exist in this respect, states must require religious leaders to take an unambiguous stand in favour of the precedence of human rights, as set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights, over any religious principle.
Notes: From Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Recommendation 1805 (2007) Blasphemy, religious insults and hate speech against persons on grounds of their religion
15. The Assembly considers that, as far as it is necessary in a democratic society in accordance with Article 10, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, national law should only penalise expressions about religious matters which intentionally and severely disturb public order and call for public violence.
17.2.4 The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers ensure that national law and practice are reviewed in order to decriminalise blasphemy as an insult to a religion;