Religious Freedom: Coronavirus

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written question – answered on 30th November 2020.

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Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on levels of persecution of (a) women and girls from minority faith communities and (b) religious communities around the world.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK remains deeply concerned by the severity and scale of violations and abuses of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in many parts of the world. Defending the right to FoRB for all is a priority for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. We continue to assess the impact of COVID-19 on human rights globally, including members of all minority religious and belief communities. We recognise that women and girls from religious minorities can often suffer because of both their gender and their faith. That is why we ensure our human rights policy work considers the intersectionality of human rights, for example the importance of addressing the specific vulnerabilities experienced by women and girls from religious minority communities. We are concerned by the secondary effects of the pandemic, including incidents of hate speech; reports that some Christian communities have been denied access to aid and, and the rise in conspiracy theories that certain faiths or beliefs are to blame for the pandemic. The UK will continue to refute these divisive and harmful claims.

The UK has called for states to ensure that any restrictions put in place to protect public health, including the right to FoRB, are necessary, proportionate and time-limited. The Minister of State for Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, urged states to take steps to mitigate the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society, including religious and belief minorities, during the UK's closing statement at the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council in July. On 16 November, Lord Ahmad virtually attended the Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief in Warsaw where he reaffirmed the UK's commitment to promoting FoRB within the pandemic.

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