The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today spoken out against the legal and extra-judicial persecution of humanists, religious minorities, and LGBT activists in Bangladesh as part of the 32nd regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 2013 100,000 protesters called for the prosecution and death of bloggers who insult Islam providing a list of 84 humanist activists. The government responded by criminalising ‘defamation of religion’, creating a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law. In addition to this, section 295A of the penal code states that anyone with ‘deliberate’ or ‘malicious’ intentions of ‘outraging… religious feelings’ will be liable to imprisonment, which, the BHA argued had in practice been used to prosecute and imprison humanists and secularists.
In a speech to the assembled nations of the United Nations, the BHA argued that the rights to Freedom of Religion or Belief and expression were seriously under threat in Bangladesh, where, ‘this year alone, a humanist activist and student, a Hindu priest, a Sufi leader, two LGBTI activists and a Christian convert were all murdered, and a Professor of English and a Buddhist monk were killed in ways which bore all hallmark of the recent killings.’
This followed on from the targeting of humanist activists in 2015, where four bloggers were hacked to death, as well as a publisher of secular authors. In the same year, worshippers at a Shia mosque were fatally attacked, and the Muslim minority were also targeted in a bomb attack, where one died and an estimated 80 were wounded.
The Council, of which Bangladesh is a voting member, was reminded that it is ‘the duty of the state to protect the rights of all its citizens, including religious and belief minorities’, urging the government of Bangladesh to reform its legal code to conform with its human rights obligations under international law, and effectively combat violent fundamentalism.
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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethically and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.