Freedom of Religion or Belief and Gender Equality across the OSCE Region

In September 2022 The Review of Faith & International Affairs published an issue dedicated to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and women’s rights across the OSCE region. The issue was edited by Elizabeth A. Clark and Dmytro Vovk and brought together a broad and rich variety of papers focusing on international law issues; the role religions and religious freedom play in the promotion of gender equality, as well as in religion-related reservations and political opposition to relevant international law; and tensions between religious organizations and human rights defenders working in this sphere.

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Interview: Nazila Ghanea on Religious Freedom and Gender Equality as Non-Clashing Rights

Nazila Ghanea is the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She is also Professor of International Human Rights Law and Director of the MSc in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. Ghanea has acted as a human rights consultant/expert for a number of governments, international organisations, and human rights organisations. She has published extensively on religious freedom, minority rights, and international law. Among her publications are Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary (2016); Religion or Belief, Discrimination and Equality: Britain in Global Contexts (2013); Does God Believe in Human Rights? (2007); and Human Rights, the UN and the Bahá’ís in Iran (2003). Ghanea was interviewed by Elizabeth A. Clark and Dmytro Vovk.

Dmytro Vovk: The freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and gender equality problematic is very politicized, often in different directions. Some countries use FoRB language to criticize human rights and gender equality as concepts; others focus international efforts on gender equality while deemphasizing FoRB; and yet other countries invest significant recourses in the advancement of gender equality or FoRB abroad while achieving less impressive results on the domestic level. How does this politicization affect international human rights law?

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Ukrainian Churches and the Implementation of the Istanbul Convention in Ukraine: Being European Without Accepting “Gender”

Regina Elsner is a researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) in Berlin.

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, appeared not only to be an instrument of preventing domestic and gender-based violence but also to symbolize a civilizational choice in times of culture wars. On 1 November 2022, the Istanbul Convention entered into law in Ukraine. After years of controversial public debates and two unsuccessful attempts, the Ukrainian Parliament finally ratified the Convention amidst Russia’s aggressive war.

Ukraine participated in drafting the Istanbul Convention and signed it in 2011. Since that time, the country struggled over the ratification of the Convention and its implementation into Ukrainian law and society. One of the main obstacles has been religious communities and conservative groups, which strongly oppose the use of the term gender as well as references to gender identity and sexual orientation in the text of the Convention. At the same time, most religious actors in Ukraine are supportive of the “European” choice of Ukraine and the more general concept of “European values.” Thus, in Ukraine we have witnessed a more complex religious attitude to gender discourse than mere endorsement of illiberalism or “right-wing defiance to West-Eurocentrism.”[1]

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