Humanists UK and the Ozanne Foundation urge UN to address religious harms

23 June, 2023

Pictured: Ozanne Foundation Director Jayne Ozanne

Humanists UK and the Ozanne Foundation delivered a joint intervention to the UN Human Rights Council during its 53rd session. Together, they called on the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to urge religious leaders to admit to, apologise for, and address religious harms caused to LGBT people.

The call was delivered in person to the Human Rights Council in Geneva by Ozanne Foundation Director Jayne Ozanne. During an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz, she stated:

‘I launched the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives in December 2020, which brought together hundreds of senior faith leaders from around the world to sign a Declaration where they admitted “certain religious teachings have often caused and continue to cause deep pain and offence to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and intersex”. Indeed, they “acknowledged with profound regret” that some religious teachings have created and continue to create oppressive systems that fuel intolerance, perpetuate injustice and result in violence.

‘Importantly, they called “for an end to criminalisation on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, for violence against LGBT+ people to be condemned and for justice to be done on their behalf”. They also called for a global ban on harmful “conversion practices”.’

She asked the Independent Expert to urge religious leaders to sign the Declaration and to encourage humanists to support this common goal.

The UK Government’s 2018 National LGBT Survey showed that 7% of LGBT people had undergone or been offered conversion therapy. Of those who had undergone it, 51% reported that it had been conducted by a religious group or in a religious setting. Such activities can include exorcisms and forced prayer. This is supported further by the Ozanne Foundation’s own research, that highlighted the role religious leaders play in recommending, promoting, and conducting these abusive practices. When people are experiencing such extreme distress over their sexual orientation or gender identity, they should be met with person-centred, therapeutically well-grounded support. They should not face coercive, medically worthless practices that seek to push them in a particular direction.



For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

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