- This event has passed.
Free to Convert, Practice and Profess
March 14 at 8:00 am - 9:00 am EDT
This side-event is convened to address concerning trends with the politicization of
religion, to raise the importance of freedom of conscience and freedom convened to raise the
voices of those affected by laws and practices that punish individuals for leaving or adopting
another religion and address how policymakers can work to turn the tide and encourage more
states to repeal the blasphemy laws, apostasy laws, and relevant legislation in light of the
suffering it causes and the resulting violations of basic human rights.
For many years, the inhumanity of blasphemy and apostasy laws and their
corresponding harsh punishments has been a major point of concern highlighted at the United
Nations. In 2012, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief flagged the
nefarious effects of apostasy laws and made recommendations on how to abolish and prevent
them (A/67/303, para. 21). In March 2019, the Rapporteur again highlighted these laws and
how they were fundamentally discriminatory in nature (A/HRC/40/58).
These reports have been coupled by action by the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 2011 with the various opportunity expert
workshops that resulted in the Rabat Plan for Action. This was followed by the Beirut
Declaration and Faith for Rights framework in 2017 which echoes the Special Rapporteur’s
report calling for the repeal of anti-apostasy laws as they have, “a stifling impact on the
enjoyment of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”
In March 2021 over 50 countries came out with a landmark joint statement during the
United Nations Human Rights Council 46th Session calling for the repeal of the death penalty
for apostasy or blasphemy laws, “both in practice and in law”, on the basis that “there are no