Andorra

Last Updated 13 July 2021

http://legaldb.freemedia.at/legal-database/andorra/Andorra is a co-Principality with a democratic parliamentary system. The President of France and the Spanish Bishop of Urgell are co-princes of Andorra, who hold honorary positions as heads of state.1https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17028050

With a population of 78,000,2https://www.estadistica.ad/serveiestudis/web/index.asp?lang=4 Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in the country and benefits from a privileged status not enjoyed by other religious groups. Recent census data did not detail the religious demography of the country, however, there are small Muslim and Jewish minorities living in the country.3https://freedomhouse.org/country/andorra/freedom-world/2020

 
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Constitution and government

The Constitution4https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/ad/ad001en.pdf and other laws and policies protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Catholic privilege

The Constitution grants a special status to the Catholic Church “in accordance with Andorran tradition” and recognizes the “full legal capacity” of the bodies of the Catholic Church, granting them legal status “in accordance with their own rules” (Article 11).

The Catholic Bishop of Urgell (a diocese that is mostly in Spain but also includes Andorra) automatically serves as one of the two princes of the country (the Bishop of Urgell serves equally as joint head of state with the president of France).

The Catholic Church also receives some special privileges not available to other religious groups; for example, the government pays the salaries of the Catholic priests.

Other religion or belief groups are not legally recognized by the State, which has consistently failed to adequately respond to requests of members of the Muslim and Jewish community to build places of worship and cemeteries. The government registers all other religion or belief groups as cultural entities under the law of associations.5https://preview.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-ANDORRA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

Owing to strict citizenship laws, an estimated 50% of the population are non-citizens with limited rights. However, Roman Catholic priests appear to be granted citizenship as a matter of course, provided they minister in the country.6https://preview.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-ANDORRA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

Education and children’s rights

Instruction in the Catholic faith is optional in public schools. The Catholic Church provides teachers for religion classes, and the government pays their salaries. The Ministry of Education also provides space in public schools for Catholic religious instruction.7https://preview.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-ANDORRA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

In 2020, the government is reported to have funded three public Catholic schools at the primary and secondary level. Although the schools are open to students of all faiths, Catholic instruction is mandatory.8https://preview.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-ANDORRA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

Family, community and society

Sexual health and reproductive rights

Andorra maintains a complete ban on abortion, providing criminal penalties for doctors and women involved in any such procedure.9https://www.eldiario.es/catalunya/andorra-bastion-catolico-aborto-castiga_1_1331304.html Public demonstrations calling for a liberalization of the legislation garnered thousands of participants.10https://freedomhouse.org/country/andorra/freedom-world/2020

As calls for the legalization of abortion have grown in the country, the Catholic Church has sought to influence decision-makers by threatening to withdraw the Bishop of Urgell as Co-Prince.11https://laicismo.org/andorra-vota-dividida-y-con-el-obispo-de-urgell-amagando-con-renunciar-al-cargo-de-coprincipe-si-se-aprueba-el-aborto/196580

Activists in favour of the legalization of abortion have faced prosecution under the country’s defamation laws.

Freedom of expression and advocacy of humanist values

Media freedom

According to Freedom House, “While press freedom is generally respected, business, political, and religious interests have historically influenced media coverage.”12https://freedomhouse.org/country/andorra/freedom-world/2020 Reporters Without Borders elaborates on this further in its 2021 World Press Freedom report stating,

“The financial sector is still powerful and the all-pervasive influence of the principality’s three overlapping pillars – state, private sector and the Catholic Church – continues to condition[influence?] the media environment. The problem is compounded by the microstate’s size, which leaves little room for privacy, anonymity and independence, three indispensable conditions for press freedom. […] The relationship between government and media is not very transparent and follows the model of close but opaque links that characterises governance in general in Andorra.”13https://rsf.org/en/andorra

Blasphemy

Under Article 339 of the Criminal Code (2005),14https://sherloc.unodc.org/cld/uploads/res/document/and/2005/penal_code_of_andorra_html/Andorra_Code_Penal_Fr.pdf “anyone who, with intent to insult and in public, commits acts or utters statements which are seriously offensive for members of a religious, national or ethnic, trade union, political, or of persons professing a belief or ideology group shall be punished by a term of imprisonment.”

There is no evidence to suggest that this provision is enforced, however.15https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2020%20Blasphemy%20Enforcement%20Report%20_final_0.pdf

Stifling dissent

Defamation remains a criminal offence in Andorra, punishable by up to four years in prison depending on who has been defamed.16http://legaldb.freemedia.at/legal-database/andorra/

In July 2020, Vanessa Mendoza Cortés – president of the women’s rights organization Association Stop Violence (Associació Stop Violències, in Catalan) – was charged with criminal defamation after she had presented her expert opinion on the situation of the protection of women and girls and the harmful impact of the current full ban on abortion in Andorra, to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.17https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR1236842021ENGLISH.pdf The authorities argued that she was tarnishing the prestige of the government. Among the evidence used against her were media statements by Vanessa Mendoza Cortés expressing critical opinions of the government on issues relating to the protection of women and girls, and criticizing the position of the Bishop of Urgell and Co-Prince of Andorra against the decriminalization of abortion in Andorra.

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