Advocacy statements

Statement on LGBTI+ equality and the right to freedom of religion or belief

  • Date / 2023
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights


Humanists International

53rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (19 June 2023 to 14 July 2023)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity

Mr President,

We thank the Independent Expert for his important report (A/HRC/53/37). For, whilst it is the same fundamental principle that underpins both the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and the right to be free from violence and discrimination based on SOGI – i.e. everyone deserves equal treatment, whatever they believe, however they identify, or whomever they love – unfortunately, there exists a widespread and often institutionalized misrepresentation and instrumentalization of FoRB to undermine the rights of LGBTI people.

We could give many examples from around the world (and did so in our submission) where FoRB, whether through a misuse of conscience claims, or manipulation of national or religious identity, has been weaponised to deny services, dignity, and equality to LGBTI people, we actually need look no further than this Council. Here, there are states are on record rejecting LGBTI rights on the grounds of “religious specificities,” or euphemistic “traditional” and “family” values, and others seeking to create a hierarchy of rights, conceiving of “religious freedom” as an unalienable right to which so-called “new” rights should be ceded.

This manipulation of FoRB sets the scene for a perceived conflict of rights. But this is false. FoRB taken in its proper universal sense and with the limits on manifestation entailed by it, should not be seen in opposition to the realisation of equality and non-discrimination on the grounds of SOGI, but rather inherent to it. That humans should be able to be true to themselves, and their emotional and spiritual attachments, constitutes the very principle of dignity upon which all our rights are grounded.

We thank the Independent Expert for helping remind us all of that and wondered does he have any reflections on how the distortion of FoRB plays a part in the bigger anti-rights movement we see at all levels, including at the UN?

Thank you.

Suggested academic reference

'Statement on LGBTI+ equality and the right to freedom of religion or belief', Humanists International

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