New Zealand’s national “Diversity” statement excludes non-religious people

Humanists commend human rights progress in New Zealand; but express concern as non-religious people are excluded from "Diversity" statement

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 8 جولای 2019

Humanists International has praised New Zealand for having abolished its blasphemy law last year, committing to remove abortion from its criminal code, and new anti-racism initiatives. However, concerns remain over the exclusion of non-religious people from the National Statement of Religious Diversity.

During the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council currently meeting in Geneva, Humanists International engaged with a visiting New Zealand delegation on the country’s human rights record, under the Universal Periodic Review process.

As well as commending New Zealand on its repeal of its blasphemy laws and progress on abortion rights, in its statement Humanists International praised progress on end-of-life issues and a commitment to combating racism and discrimination.

However, Humanists International also lamented the exclusionary nature of the National Statement of Religious Diversity. Requests from the Humanist Society of New Zealand to include a mention of those without religion in its concerns on guaranteeing the right to “safety and security for faith communities and their members” went ignored.

Iain Middleton, of the Humanist Society of New Zealand noted that the members of the reference group behind the National Statement were reported to have thought that “they had already made enough concessions to the non-religious.” Middleton pointed out that, “this should not have been about making concessions but about improving the document so that it is universally applicable and acceptable to all people.”

In its statement to the Human Rights Council, Humanists International pointed out that, “There are persecuted atheists who have sought refuge in New Zealand precisely because if its inclusive nature. It owes it to those individuals as well as to all its citizens, whatever their beliefs, to ensure its safety and security for all.”

The statement follows in full below:


41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council (24th June – 12th July 2019)
Universal Period Review: New Zealand
Jessica McDonald

We thank New Zealand for its constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review Process.

We are pleased that the abortion law is currently under review in the country, and that New Zealand has accepted the Netherlands’ recommendation to remove abortion from the Crimes Act 1961 and review the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977. However, like Canada, Iceland and Uruguay, we urge the government to go with Model A of the Law Commission report on “alternative approaches to abortion law.” There should be no statutory tests in order for any woman to make choices about her body.

We also note the end of life choices bill that has passed its second reading in parliament; this is an excellent initiative that we hope passes its third reading.

Humanists International would like to congratulate New Zealand on repealing its blasphemy law since its last review. A law that protected ideas over people inherently undermined New Zealand’s commitment to human rights. In tandem with this, we are pleased to hear of New Zealand’s intention to develop a national strategy to address racial discrimination and racism. We note that the government has also signalled its intention to examine hate speech laws with the possible inclusion of religious people. We urge it to include the non-religious also. It is important for New Zealand to be inclusive when tackling hate against individuals, whatever their beliefs.

With this in mind, we were disappointed that the National Statement of Religious Diversity excluded people of various ethical beliefs other than religious ones in “the right to safety” element of the statement. There are persecuted atheists who have sought refuge in New Zealand precisely because of its inclusive nature. It owes it to those individuals as well as to all its citizens, whatever their beliefs, to ensure safety and security for all.


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