Religious Freedom and Gender Equality: Reflections on the Recent UN Special Rapporteur’s Report

On February 27, 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief released a new report dedicated to the interplay between religious freedom and gender equality. In this report the Rapporteur addressed gender-based violence and discrimination in the name of religion or belief.

Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
© UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Talk About: Law and Religion asked scholars and lawyers representing academic and human rights institutions from the United States, Spain, Turkey, and Germany to reflect on this report by analyzing its achievements and its most controversial points. While each contributor welcomes and appreciates efforts from the UN Special Rapporteur to combat harmful practices (e.g., FGM, gender violence, forced marriages, or depriving women and girls from education etc.), most also criticize some of the approaches reflected in the report, such as the report’s conception of the nature of religious freedom and religious autonomy. They also call for more nuanced discussions, both theoretical and policy-oriented, as a precondition for advancing both the freedom of religion or belief and non-discrimination as mutually reinforcing rights rather than mutually exclusive rights.

Participants in this Conversation:

Eugenia Relaño Pastor, Can We Reconcile the Freedom of Religion with the Right to Be Free from Gender Discrimination?

 Mine Yildirim, Synergy and Conflict—Competing and Overlapping Interests of Freedom of Religion or Belief and Equality

Robin Fretwell Wilson and Tanner Bean, Fairness for All: An Answer to the Special Rapporteur’s Call for a Practical Resolution between Freedom of Religion or Belief and LGBT+ Non-discrimination

Montserrat Gas-Aixendri, Is Religious Freedom a Threat to Gender Equality?