Advocacy statements

Leena Manimekalai

  • Date / 2022
  • Location / India
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 9: Follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Oral statement

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 51st Session (12 September – 7 October)

General Debate 9

Mr President,

My name is Leena Manimekalai, I am a poet and award-winning filmmaker and make this statement on behalf of the IHEU.

Whilst the Durban Declaration[1] recognizes the role religion and belief can play in countering intolerance, unfortunately many countries still maintain ‘religious insult laws’ which, instead of promoting tolerance, encourage religion to be used to justify the persecution and silencing of individuals.

I am one such individual. I am facing death threats and judicial harassment in India after being accused of ‘hurting religious sentiments’ in connection with a short film I made on multiculturalism, which included a depiction of the Hindu goddess Kali.[2]

In 2007, I was accused of ‘blaspheming’ through my poetry, and since then have faced attempted censorship for various artistic projects. My films highlight injustice and human rights abuses, including around issues of caste, gender equality, indigenous and LGBTI+ peoples’ rights.

Censorship on the grounds of religious or political ideology undermines human rights and often threatens the very artistic expression so central to promoting tolerance and justice.

We urge India, a member of this Council, to drop all investigations relating to my current film, and to repeal its religious insult laws.


[1] https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Publications/Durban_text_en.pdf

[2] https://humanists.international/case-of-concern/leena-manimekalai/

Suggested academic reference

'Leena Manimekalai', Humanists International

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