UN: High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay - "Religion, Beliefs, and Women's Rights"

Publication Date: 
April 4, 2011

“The courage and determination of women in the Middle East and North Africa should be a source of inspiration for all of us, women and men striving to achieve full respect for human rights in general, and the rights of girls and women in particular,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on 5 April in Atlanta, the United States.

“Wearing jeans, headscarves or the full hijab, with secular or religious views, they were at the forefront of the demonstrations. They claimed public space and public attention. They demanded change. They knew that they were likely to suffer most from a perpetuation of the status quo,” she said.

“We must support these women now, so that the space they have claimed and gained through those protests remains wide open for them and other groups at risk.”

“We must guard against the reassertion of discriminatory practices and intolerance during the period of uncertainty which will be inevitable during the political transition,” Pillay told participants at a forum on “Religion, Belief and Women’s Rights” at the Carter Centre which took place from 5 to 6 April.

She pointed out that “the dignity of all, regardless of sex or background, is fundamental to all faiths and cultures. It is also the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

“Traditions, beliefs and values change over time, and are viewed and interpreted differently within societies. There are traditions of hate, just as there are traditions of tolerance; traditions of repression, just as there are traditions of liberation; and traditions of deprivation and exclusion, just as there are traditions of social justice.  These contrasts can be found in the histories of all countries and of many systems of belief.”

“Our task is to be squarely and unequivocally on the side of those in every society who promote and defend human rights, to stand with those who believe in human dignity and equality,” the High Commissioner stressed.