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Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, A/HRC/6/5, 20 July 2007


C. Vulnerable groups


28. Women are in a particularly vulnerable situation as evidenced by numerous urgent appeals and allegation letters sent by various Special Rapporteurs. Since intolerance and discrimination is often applied with regard to multiple identities of the victim or group of victims, many women suffer from aggravated discrimination with regard to their religious, ethnic and sexual identities. A comprehensive thematic study by the second mandate holder (E/CN.4/2002/73/Add.2) lists the different types of discrimination against women, such as practices that are harmful to the health of women, discrimination against women within the family, attacks on the right to life, honour killings, and attacks on their dignity, such as restrictions on the education of women or their exclusion from certain functions. Furthermore, this study reveals that there are many cultural practices to be found among peoples having many diverse religious traditions. While many religions have combated cultural practices which undermine the status of women, some harmful practices such as female genital mutilation are perpetuated in the name of religion or imputed to religion. The Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate the importance of ensuring that the right to freedom of religion or belief adds to the values of human rights and does not unintentionally become an instrument for undermining freedoms. Women all too often are required to negotiate with male religious leaders and with other members of their own communities in order to exercise their full human rights. Women themselves have to be empowered since they continue to be largely excluded from the decision-making process within most religious communities. Similarly, at a time when much emphasis is put on inter-religious dialogue, the absence of women’s voices from that dialogue is striking.

Link to full text of the report: Summary of cases-SR Freedom of Religion-2007-eng