Dominican Republic

Last Updated 10 November 2016

Once ruled by Spain, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a former French colony. The Dominican Republic is closely tied to the United States, its largest trading partner by far and home to a major diaspora.

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. The constitution specifies there is no established church and provides for freedom of religion and belief. A concordat with the Vatican, however, designates Catholicism as the official religion.

The concordat extends special privileges to the Catholic Church not granted to other religious groups. These include the legal recognition of church law, use of public funds to underwrite some church expenses, and exclusion from customs duties. Non-Catholic religious groups must first register as a non-governmental organization.

The law provides for government recognition of marriages performed by all religious groups on condition they otherwise comply with related regulations.

Education and children’s rights

The law requires Bible reading in public schools, but the government does not normally enforce this law. Private schools are exempt from this requirement.

Family, community and society

Dominicans of Haitian descent face persistent systematic discrimination in political and social life, and do not have full political rights. They have been denied full participation in national life such as attending university, obtain legal employment or a marriage license. The dismissive reaction of the Dominican Republic to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling on human rights abuses suffered by Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants demonstrates a shocking disregard for international law and the country’s legal responsibilities, according to Amnesty International.

There are few comments about non-religious people despite Gallup, in 2006, identifying 10% of the population as being such. There is a disturbing film which explores a private Christian school in the Dominican Republic called Escuela Caribe that wealthy religious parents can send their troubled children. The film tells the story of one student at the school named David who was sent there because he is gay. He was not a troubled kid, or one who caused problems. Logan explains how David was a model student at school with great grades and an active social life before he disappeared.

Official corruption remains a serious problem. The judiciary is politicized and riddled with corruption, and the legal system offers little recourse to those without money or influence.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Press freedom is guaranteed by law and media outlets carry diverse political views. Journalists reporting on possible links between the drugs trade and officials have faced intimidation, and some have been killed.

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