Last Updated 21 June 2021

Bordering Ghana and Benin, Togo is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. Of its 8 million population, the majority are estimated to be Christian (43%), with a large proportion following traditional animist religions (35%), and a further 14% Sunni Muslims. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion among the Christian population. It is estimated that 6% of the population are non-religious.1

Since gaining independence from France in 1960, and transitioning from a 38-year dictatorship, the country is now a presidential republic, which continues to undergo democratic reforms. Power has remained in the hands of the Gnassingbe family for 50 years. In February 2020, President Faure Gnassingbé was re-elected for his fourth term, after constitutional amendments in May 2019 changed the electoral system, allowing him to run for a further two terms, and providing him with immunity for life “for acts committed during presidential terms.”2 According to Amnesty International, the human rights situation has deteriorated sharply in the country over the last three years.3

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination

Constitution and government

The Constitution4; (in French) protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression, assembly and association. While the right to freedom of belief is generally respected, the authorities show far less respect for the right to criticize the government through media or public demonstrations (see below for more information).

While the Constitution commences with an invocation to God, Article 1 declares the state to be “ a State of law, secular, democratic and social.” While Article 2 asserts that the State “respects all political opinions, philosophical [opinions] as well as all religious beliefs.”

Under Article 25,

“Every person has the right to the freedom of thought, of conscience, of religion, of belief, of opinion and of expression. The exercise of these rights and freedoms is made within respect for the freedoms of others, of the public order and of the norms established by the law and the regulations.

The organization and the practice of religious beliefs is exercised freely within respect for the law. It is the same for the philosophical orders.

The exercise of belief and of expression of belief is done within respect for the secularity of the State.

The religious denominations have the right to organize themselves and to exercise their activities freely within respect for the law.”

The government recognizes Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam as official religions, and some Catholic, Protestant, and Islamic holidays are observed as national holidays. All other religious groups, including indigenous groups, may register as religious associations. Official recognition as a religious association affords them the same rights as those afforded to Catholic, Protestant and Muslim groups. There is reportedly a backlog of some 900 religious organizations awaiting legal recognition, and the government is refusing to accept new applications.5;

Article 11 prohibits discrimination on the basis of “their familial, ethnic or regional origin, of their economic or social situation, of their political, religious, philosophical or other convictions.”

The Constitution explicitly prohibits the establishment of political parties based on religion, ethnic group, or region (Article 7). However, upon assumption of office, the President is required to swear an oath before God to respect the Constitution (Article 64).


The authorities are reported to have taken limited steps to prosecute government officials who have been accused of complicity in a range of human rights abuses, which are reported to include arbitrary killings and torture, and corruption.6;

Education and children’s rights

The state school curriculum does not include religion classes; however, there are many Catholic, Protestant, and Islamic schools, and the government provides them with teachers and other staff, and pays their salaries. The state also provides teachers to private schools of other registered religious groups.7

Child marriage

According to the US State Department, “legal ages for marriage are 18 for girls and 20 for boys, although both may marry at younger ages with parental consent. UNICEF statistics (2017 data) found that 25 percent of women were married before age 18 and 6 percent before age 15.”8

Family, community and society

The judicial system employs both traditional law and the Napoleonic Code in trying criminal and civil cases. As such, in rural areas the village chief or a council of elders has authority to try minor criminal and civil cases. Those who reject traditional authority may take their cases to the regular court system. While the formal legal system supersedes the traditional system, the government is known to inconsistently apply laws, while the court system itself is slow, with the effect that many are subject to traditional law, especially in rural areas.9

Women’s rights

The law prohibits Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in women and girls, and is engaged in awareness-raising activities.10;

Abortion is legal in the country if the pregnancy is the result of rape or an incestuous relationship.11

Under the law, women and men are equal, however, due to failings in the legal system, women in rural areas are often subjected to traditional law, which is often discriminatory in nature.12

LGBTI+ rights

Homosexuality is illegal in Togo under Article  392 of the Penal Code.13 (in French); It is considered as “unnatural”.  It can be punished by one to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of 1,000,000 to 3,000,000 CFA francs (approx. US$ 1,800 – 5,400). However, the law is not thought to be enforced.14

On 30 June 2016, voted against a UN resolution on the “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity.”15

On 28 December 2020, the current Minister for Human Rights, Christian Trimua declared that, “Homosexuality is not a human right.”16; A statement that appears to be in line with wider societal views.

According to a survey conducted by Afrobarometer, 79.8% of those interviewed indicated that they would be unhappy to have homosexuals as neighbors.17 Members of the LGBTI+ community continue to face discrimination, including in access to justice.18;

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of expression is guaranteed by law. However, criticism of the government is often not tolerated. Impunity for crimes against journalists and frequent defamation suits encourage self-censorship. Human rights defenders and journalists are regularly subject to intimidation, arrests and judicial harassment for exposing rights violations. Togo has no human rights protection law despite the calls and efforts made by civil society organizations to strengthen the civic space in the country.19

A 2009 law gives the state broadcasting council, the High Authority of Broadcasting and Communications (HAAC), the power to impose severe penalties—including the suspension of publications or broadcasts and the confiscation of press cards—if journalists are found to have made “serious errors” or are “endangering national security.” These provisions have been used to suppress criticism of the government. Additionally, a Press and Communication Code criminalizes insulting the President, MPs, and government members.20

In December 2018, the National Assembly adopted a cybersecurity law that criminalizes the dissemination of false information and the production and sharing of data that undermine “order, public security, or breach human dignity”.21 The law is reported by human rights organizations to contribute to the climate of self-censorship.22

Registration of NGOs

According to Front Line Defenders, the Togolese authorities have in certain instances failed to deliver registration certificates to organizations who are perceived to be critical of governmental policy.23

Freedom of Assembly

Freedom of assembly is sometimes restricted. A 2011 law requires that demonstrations receive prior authorization and only be held during certain times of the day. Demonstrations are often dispersed by security forces, sometimes violently.

Most recently, the police were reported to have used excessive use of force in its suppression of protests against the result of the 2020 presidential election.24


2, 19, 21, 23
4; (in French)
8, 9, 12, 14, 22
13 (in French);
20, 24

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