Guinea

Last Updated 22 June 2021

Guinea is a former French colony in Western Africa, today it is a multi-party presidential republic following years of one-party control and military coups. It is ruled by President Alpha Condé, contentiously re-elected for a third mandate in 2020. An estimated 85% of the country’s 12.5 million population is estimated to be 85% Muslim.1https://www.universalis.fr/encyclopedie/guinee/2-histoire/ Christians and animists are estimated to account for 7% of the population respectively.2https://acninternational.org/religiousfreedomreport/fr/reports/gn/#endnote-1 Much of the Muslim and Christian population incorporates indigenous rituals into their religious practices. Muslims are generally Maliki Sunni; Sufism is also present, while Wahabism is reportedly growing in popularity.3https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download; https://www.ofpra.gouv.fr/sites/default/files/atoms/files/didr_rapport_de_mission_en_guinee_final.pdf In addition, the country is home to small groups of Bahá’ís, Hindus, Buddhists, and traditional religious beliefs.4https://acninternational.org/religiousfreedomreport/fr/reports/gn/#endnote-1

Issues relating to freedom of religion or belief persist in the country for the majority Muslim population, as well as for other religious and nonreligious groups. Guinea is a member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

 
Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

The Constitution of Guinea5https://mjp.univ-perp.fr/constit/gn2010.htm (in French); https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Guinea_2010.pdf recognizes freedom of religion or belief in theory. The 2010 Constitution states that the country “ensures equality before the law of all citizens without distinction of origin, race, ethnicity, sex, religion and opinion. It respects all beliefs.” It prohibits the identification of political parties with a religion (Article 3), punishes religious discrimination (Article 4) and guarantees the right of everyone to choose and profess their religion (Article 7). Moreover, an interreligious committee works with the government to ensure peaceful religious coexistence in Guinea.

However, Freedom House has reported cases of discrimination against non-Muslims in government employment, as well as restrictions on Muslims’ freedom to convert to other religions.6https://freedomhouse.org/country/guinea/freedom-world/2021

Religious privilege

Religious groups boasting larger congregations are reported to receive greater advantages than smaller ones.7https://acninternational.org/religiousfreedomreport/fr/reports/gn/#endnote-1

Although the State is constitutionally secular, the state still maintains influence on religious institutions, primarily through the Secretary General of Religious Affairs (SRA), which holds a cabinet position within government. The SRA appoints national directors to lead the Offices of Christian Affairs, Islamic Affairs, Pilgrimages, Places of Worship, Economic Affairs and the Endowment, and Inspector General. It is charged with promoting good relations among religious groups and coordinates with other members of the informal Interreligious Council, which is composed of Muslims and members from Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestant churches, as well as the SRA.8https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download

The close relationship between religious groups and the SRA is said to enable religious groups to exert influence on public policy, including by securing the lifting of COVID-19 related restrictions on places of worship.9https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download

In addition to its responsibility for the registration of religious groups, the SRA issues guidance on issues to be included in sermons in mosques and churches, and sends inspectors into each region of the country to ensure compliance with its directives.10https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download

By law, religious groups must register, or may face closure and expulsion from the country. Registration affords religious groups rights to operate in the country and certain tax exemptions.11https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download

According to the US State Department,12https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download

“imams and administrative staff of the principal mosque in Conakry and the principal mosques in the main cities of the four regions are government employees. These mosques are directly under the administration of the government. Other mosques and some Christian groups receive government subsidies for pilgrimages.”

The government also allocates free broadcast time on state-owned national television for Islamic and Christian programming, including Islamic religious instruction, Friday prayers from the central mosque, and church services.13https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download

Education and children’s rights

Education

School is mandatory for children from ages 7 to 12.14http://uis.unesco.org/fr/country/gn The compulsory primary school curriculum does not include religious studies.15https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download Owing to insufficient resources, the school system is dominated by private schools.16https://www.humanium.org/fr/guinee/

Although non-religious public schools exist, the majority of children attend Islamic schools – that can be private or state-subsidized – where the national curriculum is taught and may be complemented by Quranic studies.17https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download; https://acninternational.org/religiousfreedomreport/fr/reports/gn/#endnote-1 Christian schools are also important in Guinea and are attended by children from all religions. However, they are not state-subsidized.18http://www.cnda.fr/content/download/102605/1025813/version/1/file/CNDA%2024%20mai%202017%20M.%20D.%20n%C2%B017000510%20C.pdf Christian schools often hold voluntary prayer sessions before the start of the school day.19https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download In addition, local madrassas operate and are not controlled by the government. As they mainly teach the Quran, the majority of their students also attend other schools where they learn the national curriculum.20https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download; https://acninternational.org/religiousfreedomreport/fr/reports/gn/#endnote-1

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is still a significant phenomenon in Guinea. As the Freedom in the World Report 2018 revealed, “Female genital mutilation is nearly ubiquitous despite a legal ban, affecting up to 97 percent of girls and women in the country, the second-highest rate in the world.”21https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/FreedomintheWorld2018COMPLETEBOOK.pdf

Efforts have been made to fight against FGM, with the establishment of a national strategic plan (2019-2023) to put a stop to this practice, and an awareness campaign to educate the population on its dangers.22https://www.humanium.org/fr/guinee However, the number of cases of FGM is still increasing, and the sentences against perpetrators of FGM are limited to suspended prison sentences and fines.23https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G17/008/16/PDF/G1700816.pdf?OpenElement

In December 2019 the National Assembly revised the Children’s Code24https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl-nat.nsf/0/AAC20477AF5D4B28C12576DC0039A4D7 to clearly prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of children, including FGM. The revised code entered into force in March 2020. However, the authorities are reported to rarely prosecute offenders.25https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/guinea/

Child marriage

Forced marriage also remains a common practice in Guinea despite its criminalization in 2016.26https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/FreedomintheWorld2018COMPLETEBOOK.pdf This is reportedly exacerbated by the vague wording of the law, which makes reference to customary marriages for minors with the permission of the parents.27https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/guinea/ The COVID-19 crisis has reportedly worsened the phenomenon, as the slowed public institutions have allowed informal unions, and paving the way for child marriage.28https://www.humanium.org/fr/guinee/

Other harmful traditional practices

Finally, in 2015, UNESCO reported cases of infanticide as ritual murder, but no statistics on this practice exist and it remains unclear whether this practice continues.29https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1355453/90_1439291236_unicef-child-notice-guinea-201506.pdf; https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/56ba18e14.pdf

Family, community and society

Women’s rights

The Guinean government noted in 2012 the existence of: “norms, customs and practices [which] justify and perpetuate discrimination and violence against children and women.”30https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1355453/90_1439291236_unicef-child-notice-guinea-201506.pdf Women have full political rights, but their participation in political and economic life is often restricted by a patriarchal organization of society.31https://www.humanium.org/fr/guinee/ Further, the law does not not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including in inheritance, property, employment, credit, and divorce. Traditional practices, which are often discriminatory towards women, are reported to sometimes take precedence over national law, particularly in rural areas.32https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/guinea/

Sexual health and reproductive rights

Abortion is legal only in cases of foetal impairment, rape or incest.33https://abortion-policies.srhr.org/country/guinea/ Under Articles 306-308, those who procure or administer an abortion can face penalties ranging from 16 days to three years in prison, as well as a fine.34https://abortion-policies.srhr.org/documents/countries/01-Guinea-Penal-Code.pdf

LGBTI+ rights

Homosexuality is illegal in Guinea under the Penal Code, and is punished by 6 months – 3 years imprisonment and a fine of between 100,000 – 1,000,000 Guinean francs (approx. US$10-100). Arrests for homosexuality have been reported by the ILGA and Amnesty International.35https://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=5a09abe64 Moreover, members of sexual minorities have been the victims of crimes and stigmatization. The Afrobarometer noted in 2016 that Guinea is among the most intolerant countries towards LGBTI+ people within the countries consulted.36https://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/D%C3%A9p%C3%AAches/ab_r6_dispatchno74_tolerance_en_afrique_fre1.pdf

Interfaith marriage

Interfaith marriages are authorized by the Guinean law but are still subject to a lot of pressure from religious families, and only a few cases have been reported.37https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1355453/90_1439291236_unicef-child-notice-guinea-201506.pdf

Harmful traditional practices

According to the US State Department,38https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/guinea/

“Discrimination against persons with albinism occurred, particularly in the Forested Guinea Region, where historically persons with albinism were sought for ritual sacrifice and other harmful practices related to witchcraft. Albino rights NGOs continued to raise awareness of discrimination and violence against persons with albinism. Authorities investigated incidents of violence.”

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but the criminal code adopted in 2016 “retained penalties of up to five years in prison for defamation or insult of public figures.” A cybercrime law passed in 2016 criminalizes the same offences for expressions made online.39https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/FreedomintheWorld2018COMPLETEBOOK.pdf; https://freedomhouse.org/country/guinea/freedom-world/2021

Religious groups are granted access to government television and radio stations, which broadcast religious messages. However, ownership of radio and television channels by religion and political groups is prohibited.40https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/guinea/

Freedom of assembly

There are serious concerns about broader restrictions on protest and any media that is critical of the government. Repression has been particularly strong against journalists and opposition protesters after the re-election of the President Alpha Condé.41https://rsf.org/fr/guinee

Dozens of people were killed by members of defence and security forces during demonstrations in 2020. Members of opposition political parties and pro-democracy activists were arbitrarily arrested and detained. Indeed, the government are reported to have invoked state of emergency provisions in order to prevent demonstrations against constitutional reforms.42https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/guinea; https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/guinea/report-guinea/

According to Freedom House,43https://freedomhouse.org/country/guinea/freedom-world/2021

“Civil society remains weak, ethnically divided, and subject to periodic harassment and intimidation. Intimidation, harassment, and imprisonment of nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers and activists increased in 2020, especially against those opposing the new constitution. Guinean NGOs also struggle due to poor access to funding, leadership struggles, the restriction of civic space, and safety issues.”

References

References
1 https://www.universalis.fr/encyclopedie/guinee/2-histoire/
2, 4, 7 https://acninternational.org/religiousfreedomreport/fr/reports/gn/#endnote-1
3 https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download; https://www.ofpra.gouv.fr/sites/default/files/atoms/files/didr_rapport_de_mission_en_guinee_final.pdf
5 https://mjp.univ-perp.fr/constit/gn2010.htm (in French); https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Guinea_2010.pdf
6, 43 https://freedomhouse.org/country/guinea/freedom-world/2021
8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 19 https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download
14 http://uis.unesco.org/fr/country/gn
16, 28, 31 https://www.humanium.org/fr/guinee/
17, 20 https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1397121/download; https://acninternational.org/religiousfreedomreport/fr/reports/gn/#endnote-1
18 http://www.cnda.fr/content/download/102605/1025813/version/1/file/CNDA%2024%20mai%202017%20M.%20D.%20n%C2%B017000510%20C.pdf
21, 26 https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/FreedomintheWorld2018COMPLETEBOOK.pdf
22 https://www.humanium.org/fr/guinee
23 https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G17/008/16/PDF/G1700816.pdf?OpenElement
24 https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl-nat.nsf/0/AAC20477AF5D4B28C12576DC0039A4D7
25, 27, 32, 38 https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/guinea/
29 https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1355453/90_1439291236_unicef-child-notice-guinea-201506.pdf; https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/56ba18e14.pdf
30, 37 https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1355453/90_1439291236_unicef-child-notice-guinea-201506.pdf
33 https://abortion-policies.srhr.org/country/guinea/
34 https://abortion-policies.srhr.org/documents/countries/01-Guinea-Penal-Code.pdf
35 https://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=5a09abe64
36 https://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/D%C3%A9p%C3%AAches/ab_r6_dispatchno74_tolerance_en_afrique_fre1.pdf
39 https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/FreedomintheWorld2018COMPLETEBOOK.pdf; https://freedomhouse.org/country/guinea/freedom-world/2021
40 https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/guinea/
41 https://rsf.org/fr/guinee
42 https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/guinea; https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/guinea/report-guinea/

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