Cape Verde

Last Updated 2 August 2023

The former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde (or Cabo Verde) comprises nine 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.

According to the most recent census data (2010),1 the majority of the population over the age of 15 identify as Roman Catholic (77%); the non-religious are the second largest belief group (11%). Christian rationalists, Muslims, Adventists, and followers of the Church of Nazarene account for 2% of the population each.

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The Constitution2 (in Portuguese, automatic download); (in English) provides for separation of church and state and prohibits the state from imposing religious beliefs and practices. The laws and policies generally protect freedom of religion or belief, the right of individuals to choose and change their religion and to interpret their religious beliefs for themselves.

Under Article 28(2) of the Constitution,

“Personal freedoms, of thought, of expression, and of information, of association, of religion, of worship, of intellectual, artistic and cultural creation, of demonstration and the remaining freedoms enshrined in the Constitution, in general or conventional international law, received in the domestic legal order, and in the laws, shall be guaranteed.”

Subparagraph 3 of the same article guarantees that, “No one may be forced to declare his or her ideology, religion or cult, political or trade union affiliation.”

The law establishes an independent Religious Freedom Commission answerable to the Ministry of Justice.3

Catholic privilege

Despite the pledges made in the Constitution, a Concordat with the Vatican, signed in 2013,4;; 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.5

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

All religious associations are required to register with the Ministry of Justice. By doing so, they receive exemption from taxes and fees in connection with places of worship or other buildings intended for religious purposes, as well as activities with exclusively religious purposes.6; In order to register, religious groups must present the notarized signatures of 500 members, together with the organizational charter and statutes.7, Article 26.4

Education and children’s rights

Education in Cabo Verde is compulsory between the ages of six and 13. The majority of educational establishments are reported to be public schools. The law allows the state to provide financial, teaching and technical support to private schools, and that may include religious organizations that run religious schools.8

According to law, religious organizations and collectives may request permission to teach moral and religious education in their schools. Such programs must respect the religious pluralism of the country, and may not proselytize.9

In 2019, the government introduced the optional subject of “Catholic religious and moral education,” trialing it in 13 schools in the;;; The introduction of the subject drew criticism from some sectors of society given the secular nature of the State.11 The pilot is due to come to a close at the end of the 2022/2023 academic year after which the Ministry of Education will evaluate whether the subject should be offered at schools across the country on an optional basis.12

In 2022, the government promised to publish a report on the implementation of the subject, which appears to be yet to be published at the time of reporting.13 Speaking during a panel discussion, the Minister for Education reportedly stated that it is the hope to produce a subject that is welcoming of Christians and non-Christians, that provides civic training and engages young people in the core values of Cape Verde. Noting the significant role that the Catholic Church has played in building Cape Verdean society, the minister reportedly stated that, it is “at the origin of what we can call Cape Verdeanity and education is one of the pillars of the Catholic church’s action throughout the history of Cape Verde.”

Family, community and society

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, with around 80% of the population being 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…”14

The government relies on religious institutions to support the State in implementing public services. The government reportedly allocates $500,000 to three religious organizations for the implementation of activities that are complementary to government programs to mitigate drought.15

According to the US State Department’s 2022 report on international religious freedom,16 “in June, Minister of Family, Inclusion and Social Development Fernando Elisio Freire met with leaders of multiple Christian denominations on the island of Sao Vicente to involve religious institutions more deeply as partners in the implementation of social programs that fight poverty, support families and reduce crime.”

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

According to Reporters Without Borders,17

“Cape Verde stands out in the region for a favourable working environment for journalists. Press freedom is guaranteed by the constitution. Nonetheless, the heads of state-owned media, who dominate the media landscape, are appointed directly by the government. […] Under state pressure, self-censorship is widespread. Cape Verde maintains a culture of secrecy, with the government not hesitating to restrict access to information of public interest.”

Indeed, in 2022, three journalists were placed under investigation for their reporting into a seven-year-long ongoing investigation into an alleged police shooting of a suspect that had yet to yield any results.18;

According to the Constitution, all registered religious groups have the right to broadcasting time for religious services. It is unclear how many groups take up this opportunity. It is worth noting that non-religious groups do not fall under the definition of “religion” provided by the law on religious freedom. As such, it is unlikely that they would receive the same privilege.

The country continues to criminalize defamation.19


According to Article 48 of the Constitution, “Everyone shall have the freedom to express and to disseminate his or her ideas in word, image or by any other means, and no one may be subjected to interference, on account of his or her political, philosophical, religious or other opinions.”

Further Article 49(7) states: “The protection of places of worship, as well as religious symbols, insignias and rites shall be guaranteed and imitation or ridicule thereof shall be prohibited.”

Article 286 of the Penal Code provides penalties of up to 18 months for “anyone who, in order to disturb public peace, offend or mock a person because of their belief or religious function.”20;

Freedom of association

According to civil society monitor, CIVICUS, the right to freedom of association is generally respected in practice.21 NGOs are permitted under law to work on a variety of causes, including human rights.22 An analysis conducted by the European Union suggests that civil society in the country is, however, not consolidated and lacks influence in policy-making.23


2 (in Portuguese, automatic download); (in English)
3, 9
5, 16
7, Article 26.4

Support our work

Donate Button with Credit Cards
whois: Andy White WordPress Theme Developer London