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Human rights report finds persistent persecution of the non-religious

A report [text, PDF] by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) [advocacy website] has found [press release] that atheists and other non-religious persons suffer persecution and discrimination all over the world, and that prosecutions of blasphemy have risen along with the popularity of social media. The report, "Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists, and the Non-Religious," was released on Monday [Reuters report] to recognize Human Rights Day [UN backgrounder], and discusses laws and cases in 60 countries where atheists have been prosecuted for their beliefs. It also reports that the laws are used to curb the rights of the non-religious. Specifically, certain decrees are used to suppress expression, restrict the right to marry, obstruct access to public education, criminalize blasphemy, and even execute those who choose to stop practicing the religion of their parents. Additionally, the report notes a drastic increase in blasphemy cases in 2012, as more than a dozen people in 10 counties have been prosecuted for their posts on Facebook and Twitter, as compared to the three cases prosecuted over the last three years. The report was welcomed by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief [official website], Heiner Bielefeldt, who hopes that the international community will reflect on the IHEU's findings.

In October, Bielefeldt presented his own report [JURIST report] to the UN General Assembly [official website] that urged all member states to protect freedom of belief as it applies to religious conversion. In particular, the report documents the Special Rapporteur's analysis of international patters of abuse in the area of religious conversion [UN News Centre report], detailing violations in which people are either restricted in their rights to conversion or are forced to convert or reconvert to become more "acceptable" to the society in which they live.

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