In February 2020, UN Special rapporteur Ahmed Shaeed published his annual report on “Freedom of Religion or Belief”, in which he used the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action (on women’s rights and equality) to establish an alleged link between the subject of his report, freedom of religion, and gender-based violence. (Read our special report UN’s last report on the rights of disabled person incoherence).

UN accusation of gender discrimination

 UN accusation of gender discrimination

UN ideological report. Unfounded Accusation of gender discrimination

In order to demonstrate this link, the rapporteur stressed that, in some countries, there are religious precepts that supposedly underlie laws that violate the rights of women, girls and members of the LGTB [1] collective. He adds, moreover, that in other countries, claims of religious freedom hide the intention — or at least use them as an excuse — to curtail laws that protect victims of violence and gender discrimination.

The data provided in the report include those concerning female genital mutilation and early/forced marriage. It appears that at least 200 million women and girls have been mutilated in the last decade, and about 30% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18. The report also adds that 72 countries worldwide criminalize same-sex relationships, and up to 11 impose the death penalty for homosexual acts. Finally, he claims that marital rape and polygamy, condemned as “harmful traditional practices” by the human rights community, are justified by religion. He does not, however, distinguish which religions consent to such practices, or whether in any of the states of Catholic tradition, such practices are legal or socially accepted.

UN accusation of gender discrimination

Pope arrives at United Nations Headquarters

The rapporteur warns of what he considers evidence: that, in all regions of the world, those who advocate preserving or imposing discriminatory policies against women, girls and LGBT+ persons cite religious justifications. In fact, he stresses that gender-based violence and discrimination are being perpetuated within religious communities. With regard to the Catholic Church, he notes, in particular, that it is opposed to the reproductive health and sexual rights of women (euphemisms with which the UN refers to abortion) while denying the equality of LGBT+ persons.

Obviously, this statement is more ideological than reflective. No Catholic advocates an unsafe healthcare system, nor do they try to minimize the risks inherent in pregnancy and childbirth. They do not seek to deny the queer collective their rights either unless these violate the fundamental rights of third parties. This is precisely what the UN is silent about: that among the alleged LGBTI rights that Catholic moral doctrine does not contemplate is the criminalization of parents who refuse to consent to hormonal blockade of their children’s puberty. This refusal, incidentally, is not due to doctrinal reasons, but to studies that show that 98% of men and 86% of women who are gender-confused during childhood eventually accept their biological sex after going through puberty [Wallien, M. S. & Cohen-Kettenis, P. T. (2008). Psychosexual outcome of gender-dysphoric children. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 47, 1413-23; Drummond, K. D., Bradley, S. J.-B. & Zucker, K. J. (2008). A follow-up study of girls with a gender identity disorder. Dev Psychol, 44, 34-45].

Science and not ideology defines our nature

The UN also says nothing about scientific evidence on the side effects of hormonal treatment in minor (read American Heart Association’s Journal study) effects ranging from impaired bone growth to potential liver problems from the use of flutamide (an anti-androgen exclusively indicated for adults with advanced prostate cancer) in feminizing treatments to minors in unsafe doses. Finally, it also fails to explain that among the rights of the queer collective allegedly violated by Catholic moral doctrine is the right to their reassignment as a procreator by passing on their own genetic material with the aid of assisted reproduction techniques and surrogacy, i.e. the use of women in situations of vulnerability. Nor does it mention the right to subvert and transgress the sexed nature itself, presenting it as a great social achievement when the pregnancy occurs in transsexual persons who, born female, hormonally and surgically shape their body to transition to male while retaining their female reproductive system to be inseminated by their partners or other transsexual persons who were born male and who transitioned to transsexual women, preserving their male genitalia [2].

For the UN, the rights of the children of these couples are irrelevant or, at the very least, not as fundamental as those of their parents. Furthermore, if the Church defends them, the UN calls its principles dangerous and discriminatory.

Observatory’s response to UN accusation of gender discrimination: Vatican opinion

Arthur Schopenhauer said that all truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; then, it is violently opposed; and finally, it is accepted as being self-evident. However, the first two stages are just two sides of the same coin: the currency with which the establishment sustains its ideological dictatorship and silences freedom of thought and speech.

Taking refuge in scientific evidence that not only does not refute, but confirms the moral principles and anthropological convictions of the Catholic Church, our Observatory maintains the validity of what has always been, because it always is: that the human condition is sexed and its expression is limited to two single biological sexes and two genders — male and female — which are created from the former; that there are therefore two ways of being a person: male and female, fundamentally equal in their dignity and rights, but richly different and complementary to each other.

We, therefore, consider the Church’s discourse on gender ideology to be appropriate, and so too its promotion and dissemination of the synthesis between faith and good science as a strategy of immunization against the imposition of all kinds of ideological totalitarianism. If its appeal to scientific evidence — which we endorse — means enduring the stigma of being considered “counter-revolutionary” or “counter-cultural”, it must do so with pride. For it is not the Catholic Church, nor this Observatory, who label science as mere “rhetoric” [3], or argue that sexual difference is not natural, but an ideological category[4].  It is gender ideology that the rapporteur sets as a victim of faith.

Neither is it this Observatory, nor the Catholic Church, who contributes to the forging of a world that moves on two irreconcilable planes: the official, without freedom of thought, and the private, where religious freedom agrees that it is science and not the ideology that defines our nature.

With respect to the UN report, this Observatory reaffirms everything it has published over the last few years and which, in summary:

  1. Demonstrates its sincere respect for each and every person, irrespective of their sexual orientation or felt gender identity, and irrespective of their opinions and beliefs, although contrary to the people who hold and express them, not all have the same value.
  2. Demonstrates its radical belief in the ontological equality between men and women, regardless of the evident differences determined by their morphology, genetics and endocrine system.
  3. Demonstrates its firm belief in the plurality of perspectives in the face of a truth, which, while one, can be said in many ways. It, therefore, advocates a cordial dialogical inquiry that takes into account the perspective of good science, solid philosophical reflection and faith. Radicalisms, special interests and polarizing or totalitarian tendencies have no place in a dialogue that pursues the truth.
  4. Demonstrates a strong recognition of individual freedoms and considers the regulation of the role of authority as a social conquest. Consequently, it rejects any kind of limit or censorship on religious freedom, freedom of science and freedom of speech.

Enrique Burguete

Bioethics Observatory – Institute of Life Sciences

Catholic University of Valencia


[1] The “+” sign is used to simplify a wide range of acronyms that would join those that precede it and represent (L)esbian, (G)ay, (T) transgender, and (B)isexual persons. If all the acronyms that demand to feel represented in their uniqueness are included, the collective would be called: LGBTTTQQIAPP (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, transvestite, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual and polyamorous). A second A (ally) has also been included to refer to the allies of the cause of these collectives.

[2] 20 minutos. (1 March 2020). Un hombre transgénero, embarazado de cinco meses: “Tendrá un nombre unisex para que pueda elegir lo que quiera ser”. 20 minutos. Retrieved from:

[3] Campos, A. La transexualidad y el derecho a la identidad sexual. Euskal Erico Uniberstsitatea, 2001; Retrieved from: URL:  19 April 2018.

[4] Suárez, B. [ed.] (2014). Feminismos lesbianos y Queer. Representación, visibilidad y políticas. Madrid: Plaza y Valdés, p. 18.


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