International campaigns

We work internationally through the Council of Europe, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and elsewhere to combat religious and racial discrimination, as well as advancing the rights of children, women, and the LGBT community globally. Our Chief Executive is currently the President of the Humanists International.

We work on all of our policy areas internationally – on education, secularism, human rights and equalities, and ethical issues – as well as on several areas that while being less prevalent within the UK, cause problems elsewhere globally – for instance, on witchcraft, slavery, and the caste system.

In addition, some issues are more pressing globally than domestically, such as freedom of religion or belief versus the threat of discrimination and apostasy laws; freedom of speech and expression versus blasphemy laws; women’s rights, particularly sexual and reproductive health; and LGBT rights.

As well as lobbying the UK Foreign Office on matters of concern, we also are accredited at the UN Human Rights Council – the only national humanist group to hold such accreditation – and make interventions there every session. We contribute annually to Humanists International’s Freedom of Thought Report, and are part of the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, which since its inception in 2015 has contributed to nine countries repealing such laws.

In depth

Internationally, threats to the freedom of the non-religious come from a wide range of sources, from individuals and groups wishing to censure freedom of thought, or criticism particularly of religion, through to powerful nations seeking to outlaw and criminalise any perceived negative discussion or criticism or portrayal of religion.

The questions of apostasy and blasphemy are of major importance – and if pursued without care they may become the most significant threat to freedom of expression to have emerged in modern times. In 13 countries, apostasy is punishable by death, while in seven the same is true for blasphemy. These countries are Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. That’s why we’re part of the End Blasphemy Laws campaign.

On top of that, other countries have seen ongoing threats to the freedom of the non-religious, such as Bangladesh, where humanist bloggers – Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Neel, and Nazimuddin Samad, and the secularist publisher Faysal Arefin Dipon, were all hacked to death with machetes. We have been putting pressure on the UK Government and through the UN Human Rights Council to see these attacks stopped. We have hosted three of the bloggers – Asif Mohiuddin, Bonya Ahmed, and Arif Rahman – in speaking out at events in the UK, as well as arranging meetings with them and relevant government ministers and special advisors.

What we’re doing

  • We are an active member of Humanists International (our Chief Executive is its President) and the European Humanist Federation.
  • In 2019 we submitted evidence to the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee about non-religious persecution across the globe. We highlighted shocking examples where non-religious people are murdered for their beliefs and called on the UK Government to take heed of our evidence and act to protect those at risk.
  • We contribute information on the UK for the Humanists International Freedom of Thought Report, and help to promote this important worldwide research. The report has been published annually since 2012 and is the first comprehensive report on freedom of the non-religious globally. In 2020, Humanists International also published a Humanists at Risk: Action Report, focusing in more detail on eight countries.
  • Along with Humanists International and the European Humanist Federation, we are among the founding partners of the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, which has succeeded in getting Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Malta, France, New Zealand, Canada, Greece, and Scotland to repeal their blasphemy laws, with Spain committing also to repeal its law.
  • It remains the case that almost 40% of UN member states have blasphemy laws on the books, including seven where it is punishable by death. 22 countries have apostasy laws on the books, with thirteen punishing it with death. Scotland and Northern Ireland also have laws against blasphemy.

UN Human Rights Council


We are the only national humanist organisation that is accredited to speak at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, something we were granted in 2012. Humanists International, the EHF, and the Center for Inquiry are also accredited. We have used our accreditation to consistently speak out against religious and racial discrimination, for the rights of women and children, and against LGBT persecution. Sessions happen three times a year:

Get involved

Let us know if you hear of actions internationally which threaten free speech and the criticism of beliefs, especially those actions by states or institutions such as the UN.

You can also support Humanists UK’s campaigns by becoming a member. Campaigns also cost money – quite a lot of money – and we need your financial support. Instead, or in addition, you can donate to Humanists UK.

You can also sign up for news on international humanism directly from Humanists International.