Last Updated 10 November 2016

Niger, found on the edge of the Saharan Desert, is one of the poorest countries in the world today. It provides minimal government services, and is often debilitated by droughts. Over 98% of the population is Muslim, with 95% of those Sunni and 5% Shia. Niger is a member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

Its constitution protects religious freedom and provides for a separated church and state, and freedom of expression is generally protected.

Church and state are separated, political parties are not allowed to affiliate with a religion, and people are theoretically entitled to the free expression of belief. While religious organizations must register with the Ministry of the Interior, this is largely a formality and there is no evidence that the government favours one religion over another.>

However there are conflicting reports on whether the Nigerien Government enforces this rule – the US State Department Report on Religious Freedom 2013 found some unregistered organizations operate freely in remote parts of the country, but also how a Wahhabi cleric was forbidden from preaching because he had not registered. In general however, the constitution protects religious freedom.

Education and children’s rights

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, and data is sparse concerning its education system. It is often reliant on charity funding and foreign aid to support its education programme, meaning there is little data analysing its quality or whether it includes religious education. But, a number of factors suggest the system is not secular. In October 2014 the Ministry of Education withdrew a trial sex education programme in schools after being pressured by Islamic Associations. These associations claimed sex education was “contrary to country’s values.” The programme included information about sexual and reproductive health, as well as romantic relationships and consent.

Family, community and society

Freedom of thought, religion and expression are generally well protected in Niger. There are cases of infringement, but in a country which is over 98% Muslim with very low internet penetration, there is likely more unreported, societal pressure against atheism. However there are few cases of religious violence, and an extensive constitutional protections against religious discrimination.

Privilege… and tolerance

The Niger Islamic Council, a group of 10 high-ranking Muslims and 10 political leaders, was set up in 2006 to advise the government on issues of concern to Muslims. This certainly constitutes privileged access to political life, however the intention was to promote a moderate, tolerant form of Islam, in particular to counteract any extremism infiltrating the country from the surrounding region.

Religious Courts

In urban areas, “customary” courts exist which arbitrate on some civil matters, including marriage and inheritance. These courts are presided over by a legal practitioner, who is advised by someone with “knowledge of the traditions” and largely follow a form of Islamic Law, but all decisions made by the court can be appealed in the formal judicial system.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

In general, freedom of expression is protected, although there are a number of small isolated cases of it being infringed. In June 2013, an Al-Jazeera television crew was detained for allegedly not having proper permits, and police have attacked and chased away journalists attempting to cover a peaceful protest about education.

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