Advocacy statements

Statement condemning Head of Russian Orthodox Church & religious propaganda in fuelling war on Ukraine, and negative impact on reproductive rights

  • Date / 2022
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 2: Annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Oral statement

International Humanist and Ethical Union

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

Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the oral update on Ukraine

Thank you Mr. President.

We welcome the report of the OHCHR while expressing our horror over its findings.

As the report notes, the Russian military, a product of an authoritarian regime which has long glorified militarism and hypermasculinity, is inflicting systematic sexual violence on women as a weapon of war.[1]

Survivors of sexual violence face extremely restricted access to healthcare, including emergency contraception and abortion services. Ukrainian women in Poland who are pregnant against their will are being retraumatized as they discover that they will be treated as criminals if they attempt to access abortion services.[2]

Anti-abortion advocacy groups are using the situation to push their regressive agenda. One Catholic fundamentalist group, Ordo Iuris, has been “auditing” hospitals offering treatment to Ukrainian refugees, intimidating healthcare providers into enforcing Poland’s anti-abortion law.[3]

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has continued to offer moral backing to the war. He has incited religious propaganda to legitimize Russian aggression, and has claimed the war is necessary to defend Russian “traditional values” from “harmful gender and LGBTI+ ideology”.[4]

The continuation of the war relies on the ability of the Russian state to repress critical voices while deploying ideological propaganda.  In this context, it is essential that UN mechanisms continue to rigorously document the truth about the war crimes being committed by Russia in Ukraine. We join our civil society colleagues in calling for the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Russia this session.[5]

Thank you.


[1] A/HRC/51/CRP.1, paras. 54-60

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/may/10/ukrainian-women-face-harsh-reality-poland-abortion-laws

[3] https://en.ordoiuris.pl/life-protection/ordo-iuris-monitors-compliance-law-polish-hospitals

[4] https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/04/26/ukraine-war-russian-orthodox-church-support-patriarch-kirill-homophobia/; https://bostonreview.net/articles/putins-anti-gay-war-on-ukraine/

[5] https://ishr.ch/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Russian-HRDs-Sep22.pdf

Suggested academic reference

'Statement condemning Head of Russian Orthodox Church & religious propaganda in fuelling war on Ukraine, and negative impact on reproductive rights', Humanists International

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