UN considers paradox between religious freedom and LGBT rights


European Union


A Swiss LGBT activists places a candle during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting in Orlando, USA on 12 June, at a church in Zurich, Switzerland, 13 June 2016. Photo EPA, Ennio Leanza

The Independent Expert on Sexual orientation and gender identities, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, will present a report to the United Nations in June. It covers "perceived contradictions" between freedom of religion and protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

Madrigal-Borloz points out that there are "religious narratives which repress sexual and gender diversity and promote heteronormative norms." That is reported by Evangelical Focus. Recently, he called for input from third parties that wanted to contribute to the report.

Personal violence

In June, the report will be presented to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. It will not only describe "legal and political narratives" on how LGBT rights and freedom of religion relate to each other but also provide recommendations for states to comply with their obligations in protecting the LGBT community against discrimination and guarantee that its rights are not violated.

According to the Independent Expert of the UN, religious and spiritual narratives have been used to justify "institutional and personal violence and discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity." Furthermore, these narratives have also been used as an instrument to repress sexual and gender diversity and promote heteronormative norms, the statement reads.

According to Madrigal-Borloz, the report should "introduce voices from LGBT-inclusive belief systems, indigenous communities and LGBT communities of faith and key stakeholders." Furthermore, the expert wants to "open a space within human rights discourse and practice to recognise better and protect LGBT people's access to faith and spirituality."


Religious organisations are concerned about the upcoming presentation of the report. According to the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), SOGI policies can be used as a weapon to silence religious people and institutions. "SOGI policy proponents tend to characterise any refusal to affirm SOGI expressions or conduct as invidious discrimination', the organisation wrote in response to the call for input. It stresses that the United Nations should be careful in making such policies law, as governments can use it to coerce "dissenting religious individuals and institutions, imperilling their religious freedom."

In March 2020 at the Human Rights Council, the World Evangelical Alliance expressed "a deep concern” about a UN report suggesting that international law may have some role in defining the doctrinal positions of religious groups regarding the role of its members. The organisation points out that the definition of discrimination is unclear. "We hope UN UN experts approach the issue of autonomy of religious communities with consideration to the collective identity of religious groups" it tells Evangelical Focus.



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