The right to hold your own views, whether religious or not, or to hold no beliefs, and not to have to tell anyone whatever you belief, is enshrined under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A commitment to this freedom, as a universal right for everyone, underpins much of our advocacy and campaigns work.
We are particularly interested in ensuring that contraventions of freedom of thought and belief against the non-religious are recognized and changed. We have provided training on “freedom of religion or belief” for EU delegates. We also speak out against the misuse of Article 18 rights, as when they are used to justify religious privilege or to enforce religious standards. The Humanists International Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression lays out some of our thinking on this human right.
In our Humanists at Risk work we are often working away from public view to support and advise people facing a threat of persecution or violence. Sometimes though we lead public campaigns on behalf of individuals who are victims of religious persecution. These have included Taslima Nasrin (writer and activist hounded into exile); Dr. Younus Shaik (sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan – since freed); Asif Mohiuddin (persecuted as an atheist in Bangladesh in 2013); Mohamed Cheikh Ould M’kheitir (sentenced to death and jailed for supposed “blasphemy” in Mauritania).
The international Humanist community has always been well ahead of the moral zeitgeist on issues from albinism and violence linked to witchcraft accusations, LGBTI rights, sexual equality, and the rights of the child. These remain special areas of interest for Humanists International. As well as focusing on specific issues, often underrepresented in the broader human rights/NGO community, we work to defend or reform human rights institutions, and promote the human rights framework itself as a humanist and universal good for humanity.
As well as bioethical issues like the right to access abortion, IHEU has maintained a special interest in the area of caste discrimination, holding dedicated conferences in various parts of the world and campaigning for legislation to outlaw discrimination based on “caste”. We work for the recognition of the human rights of “Untouchables” and against the concept of “Untouchability”.