Last Updated 13 July 2017

The Republic of Suriname seceded from Netherlands in 1975. Just under half the population identify as religious, with significant religious minorities including Hindus and Muslims. According to the 2012 census, 7.5 percent are atheist or agnostic.

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Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association. These rights are generally respected in practice.

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution permits individuals to choose or change their religion. The constitution categorizes the right to religious freedom as a “personal right and freedom” and states that any violation can be brought before a court of justice. The constitution provides that no individual shall be discriminated against on the grounds of religion. The government does not favour a particular religion, and no tenets of a particular religion are codified in criminal or civil laws.

The constitution provides for freedoms of assembly and association, and the government respects these rights in practice.


However, a law remains which prohibits blasphemy in various forms and penalizes it with fines and imprisonment. The law is rarely used or not used recently but remains on statute.

Education and children’s rights

The government does not permit religious instruction in state schools, but does allow religious instruction in private schools, many of which are run by religious institutions.

The government provides limited subsidies to a number of public elementary and secondary schools established and managed by various religious groups. While the teachers are civil service employees and the schools are public, religious groups provide all funding, with the exception of teachers’ salaries and a small maintenance stipend for the schools.

Government-subsidized private schools run by religious groups accept students of all ethnicities and religions.

Family, community and society

Reproductive rights

It was reported in 2016 that 95 per cent of the 4.4 million Latin American women who had abortions in 2008 did so in unsafe conditions, and over a thousand of them died.

Suriname is an extreme example where abortion is absolutely prohibited. The feminist movement’s struggle to secure any gains in terms of abortion rights is largely owed to the influence of the Catholic (and more recently the Evangelical) church in the region. In 2016, the Pope gave priests the power to grant absolution for the sin of abortion, although it continues to be considered a “grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life”.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The constitution provides for freedoms of expression and the press, and the government generally respects these rights in practice.

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