Cape Verde

Last Updated 16 October 2018

The former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde (or Cabo Verde) is comprised of 9 main islands off the west coast of Africa. Poor in natural resources, the Cape Verde islands have nevertheless won a reputation for achieving political and economic stability.

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The constitution provides for separation of church and state and prohibits the state from imposing religious beliefs and practices. The laws and policies generally protect religious freedom, the right of individuals to choose and change their religion and to interpret their religious beliefs for themselves.

Despite these pledges, a Concordat with the Vatican, signed as recently as 2014, grants privileges to the Catholic Church, including recognition of the legal status of the Catholic Church and Catholic marriages under civil law, which are not received by any other groups. The concordat specifies a number of Catholic holidays as public holidays, protects places of worship and other Catholic properties, and provides for religious educational institutions, charitable activities, and pastoral work in the military, hospitals, and penal institutions.

The concordat further exempts Church revenues and properties used in religious and nonprofit activities from taxes and makes contributions to the Church tax deductible.

Education and children’s rights

There appears to be a “right to religious education”, though we have found no record of publicly-funded schools undertaking religious instruction as such.

The literacy rate as of 2010 ranges up to around 80%, which would place it highest in West Africa south of the Sahara. Access to education is thought to be high, however issues with language (some students and teachers first language is Creole while Portuguese is the language of instruction), insufficient spending, and a high repetition rate for certain grades, remain problems.

Family, community and society

Some minority religious groups report that the privileges of the Catholic Church strengthened the perception that the government favored the Catholic Church as the “official religion”. The government continued to use Catholic Church representatives to inaugurate public buildings throughout the country.

There are several religious groups in Cape Verde, that include small Muslim and Bahá’i communities. There are no known atheist or humanist groups. Some commentators emphasize the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church; around 80& of the population are said to be adherents. The Catholic church in Cape Verde is significantly influenced by the African and Brazilian traditions of Cape Verde residents.

“… the Catholic faith still plays a dominating role on the islands. The colonial power of Portugal was primarily influenced by Catholicism and the situation was anything but laicistic in the years of its rule on Cape Verde…”

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The government has offered all religious groups free television broadcasting time for religious services but only the Roman Catholic Church had the capacity to make use of this opportunity.

Freedom House rates Cape Verde as “Free”, but notes that: “Civil liberties are generally protected, but access to justice is impaired by an overburdened court system, and crime has been a growing concern. Other outstanding problems include persistent inequities for women and migrant workers.”

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