UN expert: Freedom of religion or belief not incompatible with equality for LGBT persons


Many religious or belief traditions are inclusive and affirming of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender-diverse (LGBT) persons, a UN expert told the Human Rights Council today.

“Paying attention to the voices and practices of inclusive communities can help to shift narratives claiming that the exercise of freedom of religion or belief is incompatible with the equal enjoyment of human rights by LGBT persons,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Presenting his latest report to the 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council, Madrigal-Borloz said violence, discrimination and exclusion can have severe and negative consequences for the personhood, dignity, and spirituality of LGBT persons.

“They are often marginalised, stigmatised and excluded from religious communities simply because of who they are,” the expert said.

He said religion or belief systems are often deliberately placed in antagonistic positions against the human rights of LGBT persons in social and political discourse, feeding the contention that there is an inherent conflict between them. “In some cases, religious narratives have been deliberately used to justify violence and discrimination – often in defiance of the doctrine of those faiths, and also beyond the scope of the right freedom of religion or belief,” said Madrigal-Borloz.

The expert underscored that the right to freedom of religion or belief must not be used as an excuse for violence or discriminatory denial of the human rights of LGBT persons. “Violent and discriminatory positions of prejudice are beyond the international legal protections of religious or other beliefs,” he said.

The expert received many submissions in his call for inputs raising concerns about religious or belief leaders fueling disinformation, hate speech, and/or intolerance against LGBT persons, such as scapegoating them for controversies, positing them as a threat to the traditional family, and interpreting religious doctrines to exclude and promote violence and discrimination against homosexuality and gender nonconformity. “LGBT persons can be especially vulnerable to hate speech, because the constant exposure to it can lead to exile, emotional distress, and suicidality,” the expert said.

Madrigal-Borloz said embracing spirituality and faith is a path that must be available to all, including all persons with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

“Human beings often long for a sense of purpose in their lives. For a very large proportion of humanity, spirituality is a fundamental part of this quest,” the UN expert said. “The right to freedom of religion or belief is a shield to protect the lawful manifestation of personal convictions, as well as to protect the right not to be part of a particular belief or subjected to human rights violations claimed to be justified by it.”

/Public Release. View in full here.