Antigua and Barbuda

Last Updated 25 July 2023

Antigua and Barbuda is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy, and a member of the Commonwealth. As such, the British monarch – and head of the Church of England – is its head of state. In September 2022, the nation’s prime minister announced their intention to call a referendum on becoming a republic within three years.1

According to the most recent census data (2011), 5.9% of the population identifies as non-religious. At least 82% of the population identify as belonging to a Christian denomination – the largest proportion of which is Anglican, accounting for 17.6% of the population. Other groups, including Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Rastafarians account for 5.7% of the population.2

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

Article 11 of the Constitution3 provides protection for freedom of conscience, defining the right to include “freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

The preamble of the Constitution states that, “the People of Antigua and Barbuda (a) proclaim that they are a sovereign nation founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person, the entitlement of all persons to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual.”

There are indications that religion influences policy-making, however the Constitution prohibits members of the clergy from running for elected office or appointment to the Senate.4 Local groups indicate that the prominent role of the Church in public life means that its support is important for individuals seeking election.5

The government maintains a close relationship with the Antigua Christian Council, which excludes non-Christian groups as well as some smaller and newer groups which identify themselves as Christian.6 Senior government officials openly exhort citizens to honor God, including through prayer.7

In 2019, the Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth & Gender Affairs reportedly emphasized the importance of close relations between the government and the Church in order to guide the nation.8

Since 2020, a representative Ecclesiastical Commission of Antigua and Barbuda – a body established by the government – has sat on the Steering Committee of the Economic Recovery Committee9 – a committee established to address the economic fallout brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.10 There do not appear to be representatives from any other religion or belief group on the committee. The Ecclesiastical Commission also convenes a national day of prayer on behalf of the

On 1 January 2023, the Facebook page of the Office of the Prime Minister issued an invitation to the National Church Service of Thanksgiving, which has “been held on the first Sunday of January each year since 2015, and has become a part of the calendar of worshipful events for the Gaston Browne administration.”12

Religious privileges

Religious groups are required to incorporate in order to own property. They can register with the government to receive tax and duty-free concessions, especially for building and renovation. There do not appear to be similar concessions available to explicitly secular or non-religious groups.

Education and children’s rights

Article 11(2) of the Constitution protects anyone from being required to receive religious instruction or take part in religious ceremony or observance, except by their own consent.

Public schools are secular; religious education is not part of the curriculum.

Sex education

According to civil society actors, adolescents in Antigua and Barbuda have limited access to sexual and reproductive health education and services.13 Prevailing conservative Christian values in society are listed as one of the reasons that sex education is so limited.14

According to a 2017 report commissioned by UNICEF,15“Most schools do not teach sex education, except for providing minimal information as part of health and family life education (HFLE), despite the evidence that the number of sexually active adolescents in the country is high.” The Health and Family Life Education curriculum has been widely criticized16 as failing to be truly comprehensive; the curriculum reportedly promotes abstinence.17 Reports18; indicate that the government has taken some steps to implement Comprehensive Sexuality Education despite resistance from conservative religious groups.

Family, community and society

Various other human rights concerns, often related to conservative religious or regressive attitudes, remain active concerns.19

LGBTI+ rights

According to a Summary of Stakeholders’ submissions on Antigua and Barbuda published by the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review,20 “LGBTQ persons in Antigua had faced stigma and discrimination in their lives, forcing many to mask their sexual identity out of fear.”

In 2022 the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court ruled to overturn buggery as a criminal act under the Sexual Offences Act (1995).21;; However, research indicates that negative attitudes towards members of the LGBTI+ community are widespread, as a result of the long-standing existence of such legislation as well as conservative religious values.22

Indeed, according to Outright International, “some politicians publicly espouse the belief that same-sex relations and gender nonconformity are immoral, and religious groups oppose progress towards LGBTIQ equality.”23

Sexual health and reproductive rights

Abortion is criminalized under Articles 56 and 57 of the Offences against the Person Act24 for any woman attempting to induce miscarriage, with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. A person who assists or provides the means of inducing a miscarriage may face a penalty of up to two years in prison.

A narrow exception exists under the Infant Life Preservation Act of 1937,25 under which protections for preserving the life of the mother exist. The government is reported to be considering whether to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and severe fetal impairment.26

According to the Antigua Planned Parenthood Association,27

“In practice, it is possible to have an abortion performed by a licensed medical practitioner in order to save a woman’s life, but it is costly, meaning that this is primarily only available to wealthy women whose lives are at risk. Additionally, due to the stigma around abortion, women and girls still seek out and have unsafe abortions, which can threaten their health and lives.”

According to a 2021 US State Department Report, “religious beliefs and cultural barriers” are reported to limit the usage of contraception in the country.28

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The Antigua and Barbuda government generally respects freedom of the press. However, defamation is a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison, and politicians frequently file libel suits against opposing party members.

Media outlets are concentrated among a small number of firms affiliated with either the current government or its predecessor. There are no restrictions on access to the internet.

Blasphemy law

The Small Charges Act29 criminalizes blasphemous language.

Article 9 (“Abuse and bad language”) of the Small Charges Act reads:

Any person who makes use of any abusive, blasphemous, indecent, insulting, profane or threatening language-

(a) in any public place; or

(b) in any place to the annoyance of the public; or

(c) tending to a breach of the peace;

shall be liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month.

Though it remains on statute, as of 2023, the US International Religious Freedom Report maintains that the law is not enforced for blasphemy.30


5, 13, 26, 27
14, 15
19, 28

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