Last Updated 16 December 2021

Suriname, officially known as the Republic of Suriname, is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America.1 It is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south.2 Suriname was colonized by the English and the Dutch in the 17th century. Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America.3 Suriname gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975.

Suriname has a population of approximately 566,000.4 According to the 2012 census, the most recent available, approximately half of the population is Christian (26% Protestant, 22% Catholic, and 3 % other Christian).5 Hindus are 22 percent of the population, including the Sanatan Dharm and the Arya Dewaker.6 Muslims, including Sunni and Ahmadi Muslims and the World Islamic Call Society, make up 14% of the population.7 The remaining 13% includes Baha’is, Jews, Buddhists, Brahma Kumaris, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and three Rastafarian organizations: the Aya Bingi Order, 12th Tribe, and Bobo Shanti.8 An estimated 7.5% of the Suriname population are atheist or agnostic.9

Suriname is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.10

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The Constitution11 states that “everyone has the right to freedom of religion and philosophy of life.” It also states that individuals may not be discriminated against on the grounds of religion, but in this regard does not include “belief” or “philosophy of life.”. Individuals may choose to change their religion. Any violation of religious freedom may be brought before a court of justice.

The government does not favor a particular religion, and no tenets of a particular religion are codified in criminal or civil laws.

The Penal Code12 provides punishment for those who instigate hate or discrimination against persons based on religion or creed in any way; however, the law is not enforced.13 Those found guilty may be sentenced to a prison term of up to one year and a fine of up to 25,000 Surinamese dollars (SRD) ($USD 1,700).14 In cases where an insult or act of hatred is instigated by more than one person, as part of an organization, or by a person who makes such statements habitually or as part of work, the punishment may include imprisonment of up to two years and fines of up to SRD 50,000 ($USD 3,500).15

Religious groups must register with the Ministry of Home Affairs only if they seek financial support, including stipends for clergy, from the government.16 To register, religious groups must supply contact information, a history of their group, and addresses for houses of worship.17 The large majority of religious groups are officially registered.18

Education and children’s rights

The law does not permit religious instruction in state schools, but does allow religious instruction in private schools, many of which are run by religious institutions. Private schools managed by religious groups include religious instruction in the curriculum. All students attending schools run by religious groups must take part in religious instruction, regardless of their religious background.19 Parents are not permitted to homeschool children for religious reasons.20 Students in public schools are permitted to practice all elements of their religion, including wearing religious symbols.21

The government funds salaries for all teachers and support staff in primary and junior secondary schools established and managed by various religious groups.22 Additionally, the schools receive a subsidy for their operational costs based on the number of students.23 The government also provides 90% of funding for books and other materials.24 Religious groups must cover the remaining costs, which include construction costs, funding for school furniture, supplies, and additional maintenance expenses.25 Religious organizations manage approximately 50 percent of primary (ages 4-12) and junior secondary (ages 12-16) schools in the country, however religious organizations do not manage higher secondary schools (ages 16-19).26 The Catholic Diocese, Moravian Church, and Hindu community manage the majority of private schools. Through the Ministries of Education and Finance, the government provides a fee per registered child and pays teacher salaries to the religious organizations managing these schools.27 Government-subsidized private schools run by religious groups accept students of all ethnicities and religions.28

LGBTI+ community at schools

Transgender women are not allowed to work as teachers in the educational system.29; Even though there is no explicit rule prohibiting transgender individuals from being teachers, they are only allowed to teach if they dress and act according to their biological sex.30 Teenage transgender persons also face discrimination in public schools.31 Transgender women are not allowed to wear clothes that conform with their gender identity or expression and are forced to use the male bathrooms in schools.32 Teachers and school personnel treat all students according to the sex on their birth certificate.33

Family, community and society

Reproductive rights

Suriname is an extreme example of where abortion is absolutely prohibited,34; without any legal exemptions. The feminist movement’s struggle to secure any gains in terms of abortion rights has largely been attributed to the influence of the Catholic (and more recently the Evangelical) church in the region.35

In its 2018 report on Suriname, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concerns about reports of denial of land rights to indigenous women, and arbitrary detention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.36 It also noted that negative stereotypes continue to persist in Surinamese society and manifested themselves in violence against women.37 Of concern were the criminalization of abortion, de facto inequality in marriage, and the very low age of marriage set at 15 years for girls and 17 for boys.

LGBTI+ Community

Family laws in Suriname define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, and people are are not allowed to marry another person of the same sex. Considering that same-sex marriage is illegal, same-sex couples cannot be granted other rights which would result from such a legal union. Among other things, they therefore cannot inherit property or goods from a deceased partner as married opposite-sex couples can.38; In the recent Pension Act, married and unmarried opposite-sex couples are entitled to the pension of their deceased partner. Even though the Pension Act39 does not explicitly exclude same-sex partners of the same rights as opposite-sex partners, the Government has publicly stated in Parliament that the Pension Act would not include same-sex partnerships.40 This constitutes a contradiction with both Article 8.32 of the Constitution and Article 126a of the Penal Code.41

Article 8.2 of the Constitution states that no person may be discriminated against due to any status. Moreover, Articles 175,175a and 176 of the Penal Code include the protection of LGBT+ people in Suriname, whereby under the revised Penal Code, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is sanctioned by one year of jail time or a fine. Despite this, LGBTI+ persons still face social discrimination, violence and stigmatization in all the spheres of their lives on a daily basis.42 The lack of specific legislation and public policies to guarantee the enjoyment of their human rights, and the position adopted by some members of the Government against homosexuality perpetuate homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia in Suriname society.

In June 2011, a member of the Parliament, Ronny Asabina, described homosexuality as a “desviation” and a “disease” that should be eradicated completely.43 Furthermore, he referred to the acknowledgement of same sex marriages as a “European epidemic.”44 Another member of Parliament, Frederik Finisie, publicly stated that he is against homosexuals. He said, “I don’t want to hear anything from homosexuals. If it was up to me, they wouldn’t even exist.”45 He has since promoted intolerance and hatred against LGBTI+ community.46

Arbitrary detentions, harassment and torture against LGBTI+ people – especially transgender women – continue to be a usual practice by security forces in the country. On a regular basis in Paramaribo city there are “cleanups.” whereupon gay and transgender sex workers are arrested and deported to a police office where they are reported to suffer rude, degrading and humiliating treatment.47

Members of the LGBTI+ community also face hostility, violence, homophobic and transphobic attitudes promoted by the media and the music industry. In November 2014, a local singer recorded a violently anti-gay song called “Bullet” inciting violence and hatred against LGBTI+ community among Surinamese society,48 without any sanction from the Government.49 A formal complaint against the singer and the group that recorded the remix of the song was filed at the District Attorney’s office.50 Whilst formally the complaint has been received and should be investigated, an official note from the District Attorney’s office states that no further action or update on the complaint has been made.51

Religion during Covid-19

Public celebrations of different religious holidays did not occur during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.52 However, the government continued to make statements throughout the year in support of religious harmony and inclusion ahead of various religious holidays. For example, in July, before Eid al-Adha, Home Affairs Minister Bronto Somohardjo noted in his remarks that the country’s religious diversity was its greatest power because, “in that diversity, solutions are found and devised for problems that arise on the journey to a full-fledged and prosperous Surinamese nation.”53 In his Christmas message, the Minister stated that citizens “draw power and wisdom” from the Christmas atmosphere to create a better country, adding, “darkness makes place for light, sorrow for joy and happiness, and fear makes place for joy and happiness. In a society with a diversity of religions, this is an important condition: to live together in harmony.”54

In July, during a swearing-in ceremony for the new government that included the President and Vice President, their new cabinet, and the national assembly, clergy of different religious groups, including Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Moravian, Evangelical Christian, as well as an indigenous piaiman and a wintie priest, participated in the ceremonies to mark the occasion.55

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

According to Freedom House, Suriname ranked 79/100 on the Global Freedom Score.56 The Constitution guarantees press freedom, and the government generally respects these rights in practice.The press frequently publishes stories that are critical of the government, though some journalists engage in self-censorship in response to pressure and intimidation from authorities.57 Government officials use state media to verbally attack journalists whose work they find objectionable.58

Freedom of expression is enshrined in the Constitution, and there are no formal constraints on the expression of personal views among the general public. However, Suriname’s increasingly rancorous political atmosphere and government officials’ verbal intimidation of perceived critics may deter open discussion of sensitive topics by ordinary citizens.59

The Constitution provides for freedoms of assembly and association, and the government respects these rights in practice.60


Blasphemy and offence to religious feelings are criminal offences under Article 196 of the Surinamese Penal Code.61 The punishment is imprisonment for up to three months and a fine of up to 120 guilders ($USD66).62 The law is rarely used or not used recently but remains on statute.63


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