Dominican Republic

Last Updated 7 October 2021

A former Spanish colony, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a former French colony. According to most recent estimates (2017), approximately 28% of the population are non-religious, while 47.8% identify as Roman Catholic and 21.3% as Protestant.1

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination

Constitution and government

The Constitution2 (in Spanish); and other laws and policies generally protect the right to freedom of religion or belief. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and belief limited only by “public order and respect for social norms” (Article 45). The Constitution also defines the national motto as: “God, Country, Liberty” (Article 34). The national coat of arms carries at its center a bible open to the Gospel of Saint John, chapter 8, verse 32.

Members of parliament are required to take an oath of office, there is no provision for an affirmation under the Constitution.

While the Constitution does not specify a State church, a concordat with the Vatican, however, designates Catholicism as the official religion.3–s891; (In Spanish) The concordat extends special privileges to the Catholic Church not granted to other religious groups. These include the legal recognition of church law, the 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 before receiving such benefits.

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

In 2019, the government passed a resolution calling for the enforcement of Law 44-00,4 which requires daily Bible reading and Bible study at least once per week in all public and private schools.5 However, the Ministry of Education does not appear to have complied with the resolution to date.6 Under the 1954 concordat, the Catholic Church has permission to provide Catholic instruction in public orphanages and “ensure the practise of its precepts.”7Article XIX (3),

Family, community and society

Discrimination against women

According to Amnesty International, women – who face discrimination on “multiple and intersecting grounds”, including in terms of poverty and transgender identity – “continued to experience discrimination in accessing formal employment and many continued to sell sex as their primary method of income.” The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a considerable drop in their income8 exacerbated by the barriers to access of government schemes to compensate those out of work.

The police are reported to routinely use rape as a means of punishment of sex workers, according to Amnesty International.9

Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights

Abortion remains illegal in the country, including in instances where the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or girl, in cases of foetal impairments, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.10Article 317, Penal Code, online:;

Legislators have debated revising the penal code for decades,11 with religious and conservative pressure groups lobbying hard against any attempts at reform. In 2014, former President Danilo Medina attempted to pass an amendment of the penal code which would allow for the decriminalization of abortion in limited circumstances. After three religious anti-choice groups appealed, the Constitutional Court declared the amendment to be ‘unconstitutional’. 12;

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The right to freedom of expression 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.13ttps:// Criminal defamation laws remain on the statute books and are enforced.14

According to Freedom House, the rights to freedom of assembly and association are generally upheld. However, the authorities have been known to use violence to disperse protests.15 In its attempts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the police are reported to have opted to use detention as a first resort to enforce its curfew, often using unnecessary force and failing to take preventative measures to stop the spread of the virus.16


2 (in Spanish);
3–s891; (In Spanish)
7 Article XIX (3),
8, 16
10 Article 317, Penal Code, online:;
13 ttps://

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