Last Updated 13 August 2020

The Republic of Honduras, historical home to Mesoamerican cultures including the Maya, was conquered by Spain in the sixteenth century who imported Roman Catholicism which has been predominant culturally ever since. Honduras’ multi-party system has been turbulent and wracked with controversy. A long history of military rule, corruption and crime has made enforcement of basic human rights challenging in Honduras.1https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/honduras

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Constitution and government

The Constitution establishes Honduras as a secular state and protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression, assembly and association.2https://www.oas.org/dil/esp/Constitucion_de_Honduras.pdf (Spanish); https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Honduras_2013.pdf?lang=en (English) However, military coups and social strife, including the world’s highest murder rate, mean that in practice many of these rights cannot be safely exercised. Under the Constitution, religious leaders are prohibited from holding public office or making political statements. Despite this prohibition, some Protestant pastors have nonetheless been elected to government positions and serve on government advisory bodies.3https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-report-on-international-religious-freedom/honduras/

Religious privilege

Although Honduras has been nominally a secular state since 1880, the legislature declares the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Confederation of Honduras as legally recognized churches, and these churches only.

The Constitution allows other religious bodies to register as non-profit associations with the benefits of non-profit status. And all citizens are free to practice the religion or belief of their choice. But the two official churches receive a range of additional privileges and benefits available to them alone, such as tax exemption for clergy salaries and state recognition of religious marriages.

Education and children’s rights

Public education must teach a secular curriculum, however private schools may include religion as part of the curriculum. While private religious schools are allowed to operate, they reportedly receive no special privileges from the government. Access to education is a significant problem in Honduras, as the government only provides funding for education up until the 6th grade.4https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/honduras/#:~:text=The%20constitution%20states%20public%20education,as%20part%20of%20the%20curriculum

Family, community and society

Women’s rights

Murder remains the second-leading cause of death for women of childbearing age. The government, with backing from the Catholic and Evangelical churches, exacerbates this crisis by limiting women’s options after sexual violence. Honduras is the only nation in Latin America that bans emergency contraception outright, including for rape victims. Abortion is also outlawed, with no exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality or the life of the pregnant woman. Women who seek abortions put themselves at risk of imprisonment. The country’s criminal code imposes prison sentences of up to six years on women and girls who induce abortions and on the medical professionals who assist them with obtaining abortions.5https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/06/life-or-death-choices-women-living-under-honduras-abortion-ban

LGBT rights

The constitution explicitly bans same-sex marriage. Honduran society is hostile to LGBT people and violence against the LGBT community is endemic. It is reported that between 2009 and 2019, at least 322 members of the LGBT community in Honduras were murdered. Honduras also had the highest per capita number of transgender murders in the world between 2008 and 2014, according to a report by Transgender Europe.6https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27840/i-knew-i-had-to-get-out-to-survive-violence-drives-lgbt-central-americans-north

In March 2019, a new adoption law prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting children went into effect.7https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/honduras

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and press freedom, these rights have been systematically violated since the most recent coup in 2009.8https://pen-international.org/app/uploads/Honduras-Journalism-in-the-Shadow-of-Impunity1.pdf The security forces, especially the military police and army, are responsible for most of the abuses and violence against media personnel.9https://rsf.org/en/honduras

Most large broadcasters and publishers are owned by powerful businessmen and politicians who supported the coup. Opposition and community media that dare to report human rights violations or land conflicts are exposed to serious reprisals, with the direct complicity of the police, armed forces and private militia controlled by businessmen and politicians. Harassment includes police surveillance, assaults, threats, blocked transmissions, and power outages. This has been seen in the persecution of opposition media such Radio Uno, Radio Globo and Canal 36, and community radio stations such as Radio Coco Dulce and La Voz de Zacate Grande.

Endemic violent crime suppresses freedom of expression and the work of human rights activists. Approximately 80 percent of crimes committed in Honduras are never reported, according to the government, and only 3.8 percent of reported crimes are investigated by police.

Crackdown on protests & new restrictions on freedoms

The outbreak of protests in March 2019 were met with a heavy-handed crackdown that resulted in at least six deaths, 80 wounded, and 48 arbitrary detentions between March and July.10https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/honduras

In May 2019, a revised penal code was adopted by the Honduran government. Human rights groups have raised concerns that its vaguely-worded provisions could criminalize the lawful exercise of the rights to protest and assembly. This includes the crime of “public disturbances,” vaguely defined to include “violence or serious intimidation [that] frightens a population or part of it.” The code also uses overly broad language in defining the crimes of “illicit assembly,” “demonstrations,” and “terrorism.” 11https://pen-international.org/es/noticias/carta-al-congreso-nacional-de-honduras-de-organizaciones-internacionales; https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/honduras In July 2019, the IACHR expressed concern over these provisions and called for their review.12http://www.oas.org/es/cidh/expresion/informes/ESPIA2019.pdf The new penal code entered into force on 25 June 2020.13https://criterio.hn/plagado-de-contradicciones-el-nuevo-codigo-penal-entra-en-vigencia-por-decision-politica/

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