Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security – Some Reflections

Jeroen Temperman is Professor of International Law and Religion at Erasmus University Rotterdam

Together, recent domestic “laws on extremism,” counter-terrorism efforts, seemingly perpetual “states of emergency,” and miscellaneous “national security” measures send an unequivocally powerful message: Rights and freedoms are all well and good, but if unchecked, such liberties may undermine another important public good—security. As a result, freedom is increasingly and categorically pitched against security; security is also pitched against freedom. Such is the securitization zeitgeist. Security demands sacrifices—sacrifices in the area of what used to be fundamental freedoms we took for granted.

This securitization of human rights discourse essentially seeks to redefine the dynamic between security and freedom and, in so doing, renegotiates the balance between these two public goods. Once unbridled freedom is portrayed as a non-manageable threat to security, measures that would otherwise be considered harsh, overstepping, overstated, draconian, excessive, untimely, or premature, are no longer viewed as such—they may even be seen as sound courses of action in the fight for national security. Continue reading “Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security – Some Reflections”

Security Measures and the Gender Dimension of Freedom of Religion or Belief

Dr. Mine Yıldırım is Head of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Freedom of Belief Initiative in Turkey

How do restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in your country affect women? Are women and men impacted differently by the same security measures? Usually, silence follows when these questions are posed to public officials, civil society organizations, and religious or belief community leaders. Then, though some examples may come to mind, the list of relevant issues rarely extends beyond highly visual restrictions, such as with the headscarf or the burka.

We do not yet have a comprehensive and systematic resource that provides of how the gender dimension of FoRB presents itself and how it should be monitored. Understanding this is particularly important for states and civil society organizations. States must protect the right to freedom of religion or belief for both men and women and must refrain from restrictive measures that disproportionately impact women or men. Likewise, civil society organizations strive to understand how women are impacted by these measures so that they can hold states accountable.

Human rights compliance policies have largely focused on the interplay between religion, women’s rights, and equality, or in other words, FoRB and women’s equality. In 2013 the former UN Special Rapporteur Heiner Bielefeldt elaborated on this in his report to the UN General Assembly. His analysis addresses religious stereotypes in conjunction with gender stereotypes, gender and sexuality in school education programs and religious institutions, protection gaps in family law, and criteria for imposing proportionate limitations on freedom of religion or belief. Bielefeldt’s analysis of women’s right to FoRB was limited, highlighting issues related to religious symbols and garments, and focused mainly on harmful practices impacting women’s right to FoRB that may have religious roots. Continue reading “Security Measures and the Gender Dimension of Freedom of Religion or Belief”