Humanists ‘discriminated against in 144 countries’ – 2021 Freedom of Thought Report

Humanists are discriminated against in 144 countries across the globe. 83 countries have criminal punishments for blasphemy or apostasy, including 13 where it remains a capital offence. In 12 countries, government figures or state agencies openly marginalise, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious. These are the top-line findings of the tenth annual Freedom of Thought Report by Humanists International, which is being launched today.

Humanists International is the umbrella body for all humanist, atheist, and secularist organisations around the world. It campaigns internationally to defend non-religious people at risk of persecution and violence. Each year it produces the Freedom of Thought Report which is the only worldwide survey of discrimination and persecution against the non-religious. It provides the most up-to-date information on each country and a rating system for their human rights performance.

In recent years, there has been an increase in attacks and persecution of humanists and other non-religious people across the globe. There have been murders, arrests, and disappearances of outspoken humanists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and India. There are state-sponsored crackdowns on the non-religious communities in Egypt and Malaysia.

Humanists UK is a member of Humanists International and helps with the compilation of the report. It will be using these findings to call on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to do more to protect humanists at risk around the globe.

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson is also the elected President of Humanists International. Speaking in that capacity about the report, he commented:

‘This year’s Freedom of Thought Report offers, once again, grim reading. In it we detail the discrimination that humanists and other non-religious people continue to face as a result of daring to express their beliefs and to try to live according to their conscience.

‘The non-religious are one of the most persecuted groups across the globe. But they are also one of the least visible and their persecution is amongst the most under-reported. We welcome this report and hope that it will influence governments both in the UK and abroad to prioritise protecting freedom of religion and belief for all.’