Equatorial Guinea

Last Updated 14 October 2021

Formerly a colony of Spanish Guinea, Equatorial Guinea is the only African country where Spanish is an official language. The discovery of oil has made the country the third richest in Africa in per capita income.1 https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/equatorial-guinea

Since rising to power in a military coup in 1979, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has controlled all branches of government in collaboration with his clan and political party; he is the longest sitting president in the world.2https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/equatorial-guinea The country is deeply marked by human rights violations, and a lack of rule of law or justice.3https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/equatorial-guinea/

The population is estimated to be 836,000 as of mid-2020.4https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/ According to the 2015 census, 88% of the population is Roman Catholic, 5% Protestant, 2% is Muslim. The remaining 5% adhere to animism, the Baha’i Faith, Judaism, and other belief groups.5https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

The Constitution6https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Equatorial_Guinea_2012.pdf?lang=en does not establish a state religion but mentions “responsibility before God and history” in its preamble. Article 13 provides a variety of rights, including freedom of “religion and worship” and “freedom of expression, thinking, ideas and opinions.”7https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Equatorial_Guinea_2012.pdf?lang=en

Article 9 of the Constitution prohibits political parties based on “tribe, ethnicity, region, district, municipality province, gender, religion, social condition nor profession or occupation.”8https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Equatorial_Guinea_2012?lang=en

Reports indicate that elections held are neither fair nor democratic. The Electoral Authority is under the control of the governing party. Authorities repress the opposition parties, arrest, and prosecute dissidents to enable the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea to stay in power.9https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf

The judiciary branch lacks independence. Many judges do not have adequate legal training, the right to a fair trial is not respected. The President appoints and dismisses judges and prosecutors without any legal basis. Sentences are handed out in accordance with the wishes of the President. Due process and presumption of innocence were not respected. Reports show that civilians can be tried by the military courts.10https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf; https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En

Religious preference

The Catholic Church along with a few other religious groups receive favorable treatment from the government. Churches conduct government functions like running schools and producing official documents such as birth certificates and marriage certificates.11https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/

Religious groups are subject to a registration process that is cumbersome and prohibitively expensive. While some religious groups, such as Methodists, Muslims, and Baha’is, hold permanent authorizations, newer groups may be required to renew their registration annually. Groups related to the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformed Church of Equatorial Guinea are exempted from registration.12https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/

The Catholic Church is also exempted from the requirements imposed on foreign religious representatives or authorities to obtain advance government approval to participate in religious activities.13https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/

Catholic leaders enjoy exclusive meetings with the highest-level government officials. Catholic masses are held on major ceremonial events like Independence Day and the holiday commemorating the President’s Birthday. Government officials and employees are usually expected to attend these events. Catholic and Reformed Church leaders were often seated in preferred locations at official events.14https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/

Education and children’s rights

Catholic religious classes are part of the school curriculum. Opting out is possible if the student can provide a request from the leader of another religious group. The Constitution guarantees the freedom of consciousness in education.15https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/

Article 24 of the Constitution:

“3. The State guarantees to every person, private entity or religious community, legally constituted, the right to found schools, provided that they are subject to the official pedagogical plan.
4.Official education permits the free election of the religious formation program, based on the freedom of conscience and religion protected by this Fundamental Law.”16https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Equatorial_Guinea_2012?lang=en

Multiple Christian groups operate primary and secondary schools, according to standard curriculum requirements. However, the Catholic Church is the only religious group to receive state funding for operating educational institutions.17https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/

University professors and teachers have reportedly been hired or dismissed due to their political affiliations.18https://freedomhouse.org/country/equatorial-guinea/freedom-world/2021

Family, community, society

Tradition and gender discrimination

Traditional and customary marriage laws are still being practiced in situations where women cannot access civil courts. Most marriages are customary,19https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/GQ.pdf and the law does not provide for the registration of these marriages. Under customary law, women do not have equal rights. In the event of separation or divorce, women are discriminated against in the division of assets acquired during the marriage, the custody of the children, and may be obliged to return their dowries. Women’s access to justice is limited in cases of physical abuse and issues regarding dowries and polygamy. Women are discriminated against in access to education and consequently access to employment.20https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf

There is no law addressing violence against women,21https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/GQ.pdf domestic abuse is considered to be in accordance with traditional norms according to activists.22https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality provided legal advice and mediation to victims but there are no legal mechanisms for seeking justice. Domestic violence complaints were not treated with urgency but dealt with as a common offense.23https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf

The Penal Code24https://acjr.org.za/resource-centre/penal-code-of-equatorial-guinea-1963/@@download/file/Penal%20Code%20of%20Equatorial%20Guinea%201963.pdf in Equatorial Guinea is the Spanish Penal Code from 1963. Rape is criminalized but defined only within the boundaries of sexual intercourse being coerced with the use of force or intimation, or the victim being under 12 years old. The Law does not regard the lack of consent as the basis for rape. The legal definition of rape does not include marital rape, a wife cannot file a complaint. The marriage of the victim with the perpetrator cancels the criminal charges.25https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/GQ.pdf


Voluntary termination of pregnancy is criminalized, women and performers of the procedure are subject to 12 to 20 years of imprisonment.26https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/GQ.pdf; https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En Recent reports show that the criminalization is not applied, but that termination is only permitted in cases of rape and threat to the mother’s life and is subject to spousal consent. There is a lack of appropriate reproductive health services and very poor sexual education.27https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/GQ.pdf; https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En

LGBTI+ rights

There is an absence of legislation defining and prohibiting discrimination in particular sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.28https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En Homosexuality is considered a pathology, even by government institutions. The treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals violates their dignity and rights. Activists describe an extremely homophobic environment in the country.29https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedoms of expression, also within the private sphere are restricted. The government recruits informants and uses digital surveillance to monitor citizens, NGOs, and journalists. Individuals criticizing the government are subject to arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and trumped-up charges.30https://freedomhouse.org/country/equatorial-guinea/freedom-world/2021

The media outlets operating in the country are controlled by affiliates of the Government. Independent media is limited due to a lack of funding, infrastructure, and government persecution.31https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En The government practices pre-publication censorship on the media, severely limiting independent journalistic activity. Journalism in contradiction to the government’s narrative is subject to government surveillance, arrests, and threats.32https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/equatorial-guinea/ A few heavily censored private newspapers operate. Still, journalists critical of the government, security forces, or the president and his family were dismissed or judicially persecuted. Journalists and human rights defenders are subject to arbitrary arrests and detentions. The authorities block foreign news sources, especially information about democratic uprisings in other countries.33https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf

Reports show that torture is used systematically by security forces. The judicial branch does not investigate the use of torture. Perpetrators enjoyed immunity and in some instances were promoted to positions in the Government or public administration. Many prisoners died in detention because of torture or lack of medical care.34https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf

The regulation on civil society is restrictive and disproportionate. The registration process is prohibitively expensive, and decisions are arbitrary. Human rights defenders are harassed and frequently arrested.35https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En

The registration process for NGOs is filled with obstacles and rules that limit their abilities to receive donations from outside the country, and limitations on their ability to carry out their operations independently. Over recent decades, the government created an environment that is inhabitable to organizations interested in addressing human rights, or corruption.36https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf


1 https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/equatorial-guinea
2 https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/equatorial-guinea
3, 32 https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/equatorial-guinea/
4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/
6, 7 https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Equatorial_Guinea_2012.pdf?lang=en
8, 16 https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Equatorial_Guinea_2012?lang=en
9, 20, 22, 23, 29, 33, 34, 36 https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf
10 https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/guinea_ecuatorial/sesion_33_-_mayo_2019/a_hrc_wg.6_33_gnq_3_e.pdf; https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En
17 https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/equatorial-guinea/
18, 30 https://freedomhouse.org/country/equatorial-guinea/freedom-world/2021
19, 21 https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/GQ.pdf
24 https://acjr.org.za/resource-centre/penal-code-of-equatorial-guinea-1963/@@download/file/Penal%20Code%20of%20Equatorial%20Guinea%201963.pdf
25 https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/GQ.pdf
26, 27 https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/GQ.pdf; https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En
28, 31, 35 https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/GNQ/CO/1&Lang=En

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