BHA and Arab Humanists join forces at the UN Human Rights Council calling for LGBTI rights in Egypt and Tunisia to be respected

26 September, 2016

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Photo: Wikimedia.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Photo: Wikimedia.

The British Humanist Association (BHA), in a joint statement with the Arab Humanists at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), has spoken out against the sectarian religious curriculum mandated by Egyptian authorities, and the failure to adequately protect the right to freedom of religion or belief, as well as the human rights abuses committed against LGBTI persons in the 72 states which outlaw homosexuality worldwide.

The Egyptian constitution places Islam at its core, whilst only recognising other Abrahamic religions as legitimate forms of worship. Even minority religion and belief groups with a demonstrable presence such as the Baha’is and the non-religious are not recognised. The BHA and AH noted with concern the ‘coordinated government crackdown on perceived atheists’, which led to multiple arrests, and highlighted the case of three Coptic Christian teenagers who were forced to flee the country following being found guilty of blasphemy – and emphasised the hypocrisy implicit in a penal code which punishes insult directed towards any of the Abrahamic religions, whilst simultaneously denying even the basic right to freedom of religion or belief for followers of other faiths, or the non-religious.

The intervention then went on to point out to the assembled nations of the UNHRC that, while the universality of human rights, to which all member states are committed, necessarily means that human rights are not to be denied based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, 72 countries still punish homosexuality in one form or another, 13 of which punish it by death. Arab Humanists and BHA pointed to some particularly worrying cases in Tunisia, where six men were subjected to intrusive anal exams, an act which has been branded torture by Amnesty International, after which they were sentenced to three years imprisonment. Additionally, a minister for justice was fired from his position after suggesting the law be changed.

The joint statement ended by urging States who are failing to safeguard the right to freedom of religion or belief and those who are failing to respect the universality of human rights with regards to LGBTI persons to revise their laws and policies in order to comply with international human rights law.


For further comment or information, contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the full statement here:

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.