Last Updated 27 November 2020

Uganda, located on the north and north-western shores of Lake Victoria, is a predominantly Christian country, with a significant Muslim minority (primarily Sunni), and a president, Yoweri Museveni, of some 34 years standing. The Christian population is divided between protestant denominations and Roman Catholics, accounting for 45% and 39% of the total population respectively. According to the most recent estimates (2014), only 0.2% of individuals identified as non-religious.1

Uganda is member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

The Constitution2 and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression, assembly and association (Articles 29 and 37 of the Constitution). However, in practice the government violates some of these rights, especially the freedom of the press.

There is no state religion (Article 7), and freedom of worship is constitutionally protected and respected in practice. The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of “creed or religion” (Article 21(2)). The law prohibits the creation of political parties based on religion (Article 71(b)).

Religious groups are required to register as non-profit organizations with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau and then to secure a five-year operating license from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.3 In September 2019, the government announced consultations before introducing a policy to regulate religious groups; the draft policy received strong opposition from some evangelical Christian churches.

Education and children’s rights

The Ugandan government has sanctioned the non-compulsory teaching of Christian and Muslim religions in school since 2008. The religious education curriculum is comparative in theory, but in practice aims at inculcation. Primary schools must teach either Christianity, Islam, or both in their social studies classes. Many schools teach both and let students select which one to attend. Primary school students may choose to answer either questions about Islam or Christianity during the religion portion of the national social studies exams.4

Religious instruction in public schools is optional at the secondary level. Secondary schools may choose which, if any, religious studies to incorporate into their curricula, and students who choose to attend that school must take the course offered. The state approves religious education curricula.

There are a small number of Humanist schools operating without impediment (the Humanists International and other humanist groups have supported these schools).

Failures in the protection of refugee children

According to UNICEF,5

“Children make up 61 per cent of the affected population. Refugee children face a range of protection concerns, including violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.[…] One third of all primary-level children and 70 per cent of secondary-level children are out of school. The health sector regularly contends with re-emerging threats, including outbreaks of cholera, measles and polio. In 2019, some 16,500 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.”

Family, community and society

There is little or no interreligious conflict between the Christian majority and the Muslim minority, though 2014 saw a surge in inter-tribal conflict in the western Rwenzori region, reportedly related to historical kingdom boundaries and militant secessionist

Churches and businesses named for religious figures and concepts are predominant in the city streets of Kampala. Marriages are often celebrated with traditional “Introductions” followed by a more Western-style weddings ceremony. There is a growing attention to humanist related activities and celebrations within the country spearheaded by a group of humanists conducting humanist ceremonies within the country.

Discrimination against religious minorities

Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media reported that the government disproportionately and unfairly arrested and imprisoned Muslims. The Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) stated the government continued to discriminate against Muslims when hiring for public positions.7

Further, on 4 October 2019, a Christian man filed a lawsuit against all Muslims to prevent them from calling God by the name ‘Allah.'8 In a separate case, the same petitioner, was reportedly sentenced to three years in prison for contempt of court.9

LGBTI+ rights

Members of the LGBTI+ community face daily harassment and discrimination. According to Out Right International,10

“Same-sex relations are have been criminalized in Uganda since British colonial times. Articles on “unnatural offenses” and “indecent practices” have been retained in the Penal Code since independence. “Carnal knowledge against the order of nature” between men carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.”

In October 2019, members of parliament announced that they were seeking to re-introduce the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 (which was thrown out by the Supreme Court on a technicality).11;; The government were, however, quick to dispel concerns.12

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, but the media have faced substantial, escalating government restrictions and intimidation in recent years. Freedom of assembly is officially recognized but often restricted in practice.

According to the US State Department:13

“The law prohibits secular broadcasters from stating opinions on religious doctrine or faith. The law also prohibits radio and television stations from broadcasting advertisements that “promote psychic practices or practices related to the occult,” material that encourages persons to change their faith, and content that uses or contains blasphemy. The government, however, seldom enforces these provisions of the law.”

De facto “blasphemy” law

Chapter 13, Articles 118-122, of the Penal Code Act14 outline offences relating to religion.

Article 122 states:

“Any person who, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any other person, writes any word, or any person who, with the like intention, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of any other person or makes any gesture or places any object in the sight of any other person, commits a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year.”


“Being a non-religious organisation, what we do has unfortunately attracted hate from several people who now brand us as Satanic, or “un-African”. I have been attacked on Facebook, and during radio appearances I have been abused on air.

… At about 3 am [on 30 October 2014], unidentified persons came to my home, the maid says she heard people moving around the house and trying to open her window and in a few minutes, there was commotion and then there was a bang and the fire started. They set the car ablaze. It is a trying moment to me and my young family, my children are greatly traumatized. Thanks to my good neighbors who came to my rescue and my family was saved. The entire house could have burnt down! I have contacted the police and the … arson has been reported. … I will continue working for humanism, doing my job at HALEA more determined than ever. Regardless of the hate and persecutions, our struggle to empower the minds of our people should continue, whether I am around or not.”

— Kato Mukasa

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