Last Updated 10 November 2016

Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, has the reputation of being a stable democracy. It boasts a proliferation of political parties and a strong civil society, particularly the press. On the economic side, however, the picture is less bright; Benin is severely underdeveloped, and corruption is rife. Benin is a member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

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Constitution and government

Constitutionally, Benin is a secular state protecting freedom of thought and expression. Freedom to belong to a religion or no religion is protected by law. Once banned in Benin, voodoo is now celebrated alongside the major religions of Islam and Christianity. Census returns suggest 7% of the population is non-religious.

Religious groups need to be registered with the government.

Education and children’s rights

Public schools are forbidden from providing religious instruction, although some religious groups provide private schools.

Family, community and society

The freedom of the non-religious to organise is illustrated by the 2011 seminar Laicité au Benin (Secularism in Benin) sponsored by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

There is evidence of the use of religion as a political ploy by government officials and those who seek office. According to media reports, “political groups supporting the president (a noted Catholic), as well as businessmen in search of favours, have been using prayer gatherings at key moments for the nation to either show their support or gain influence in the government. Because of this, it’s common to see religious prayers of all kinds flourish when the president runs into difficulties or challenges.”

 “Witchcraft” and human rights

There is a climate of human rights abuse, particularly affecting children (often with disabilities). Practice of “witchcraft”, “sorcery” and “exorcism” are widespread and have lead to the killing of children, in some cases with no legal consequences for the perpetrators.

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