Solomon Islands

Last Updated 6 December 2021

Solomon Islands is an archipelago comprising 997 islands and atolls located in the Melanesian region of the Pacific. The island group covers a land area of 28,230 km2, with six larger islands: Guadalcanal; Choiseul; Santa Isabel; New Georgia; Malaita; and Makira.1 It is a Constitutional Monarchy governed under a multiparty parliamentary democracy system with the Queen of the United Kingdom as Head of State represented by the Governor-General. The Prime Minister is the head of government. Governance is decentralized, it consists of the Central and Provincial governments.

According to the 2019 census, the population of the Solomon Islands is 721,455.2 Approximately 90% of the population is affiliated with a range of Christian churches, including: Anglican Church of Melanesia (32%), Roman Catholic (20%), South Seas Evangelical (17%), Seventh-day Adventist (12%), and United Methodist (10%).3 An estimated 5% of the population, consisting primarily of the Kwaio ethnic community on the island of Malaita, adheres to indigenous, animistic religions.4 Whilst the remaining 5% of the population adhere to other religious groups such as Islam, Baha’is, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church), and members of indigenous churches that have broken away from major Christian denominations.5 There are no statistics available on the number of non-religious persons in Solomon Islands.

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

Section 11 of the Constitution6 provides for protection of freedom of conscience which includes freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance. These provisions may be restricted under Section 11 (6) (a) and (b) by laws “reasonably required” in the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons, including the right to practice and observe any religion without the unsolicited intervention of members of any other religion, except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.

Although the Constitution does not prescribe a State religion, the Constitutional Review Committee 2014, suggested that Solomon Islands should be declared as a Christian nation since the largest percentage of the population (more than 95 percent) are Christians.7 This amendment awaits approval by the parliament.8; Aid to the Church in Need International, 2020.

The State through the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Traditional Governance, Peace, and Ecclesiastical Affairs (MTGPEA) provides funds to churches to carry out social programs.9 Such social programs include Christian care centers for victims of domestic violence administered by the Anglican Church of Melanesia, and for the maintenance of church buildings.10 A number of churches also received funding from local members of parliament through their constituent development funds.11 Groups are required to apply directly to members of parliament to receive these funds. Organizations registering as religious groups are exempted from paying the application fee.12

Education & Children’s rights

Religious groups operate several schools and health services. The government subsidizes most of the schools and health centers administered by the Catholic Church, Anglican Church of Melanesia, United Methodist Church, South Seas Evangelical Church, and Seventh-day Adventist Church.13 Subsidies are allocated proportionally based on the number of students at the schools and the size of the health centers.14

Section 11 (4) of the Constitution provides that except with his own consent (or, if he is a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years, the consent of his guardian) no person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if that instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own.

Section 11 (7) mandates the Parliament to prescribe the curriculum and related matters in all places of education within Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) – an ecumenical non-governmental organization, formed by Catholics, Melanesian Anglicans and United Methodists; the Seventh Day Adventists and the South Sea Evangelicals, as associate members – agree on the content of the religious element of the school curriculum.15 The curriculum of public schools makes provision for an hour of religious instruction each day.16

Section 27 of the Education Act17 provides that “where pupils of any particular religious denomination attend a school, a minister of that denomination may give religious instruction to such pupils for a minimum of one hour per week at such time as the Education Authority may direct.”

Corporal punishment in schools

Corporal punishment is an enduring issue in schools and is a tolerated and accepted form of disciplining children in Solomon Islands. Data collected by UNICEF shows that “teachers… hit, smack, pinch, kick, knock or pull or twist children’s ears.”18 There is no legislation to legally prohibit corporal punishment of children.19

Child sexual abuse

The main drivers of child sexual abuse include tourism20World Travel and Tourism Council. (2020). Solomon Islands Annual Research: Key Highlights.
and the entertainment industry where children work in nightclubs, hotels and casinos in Honiara.21Save the Children. (2015). Dynamics of Child Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Solomon Islands. 35. Such abuse occurs through logging camps where children are domestically trafficked in order to be sexually exploited,22 and in churches.23

Both the Immigration Act 201224 and Penal Code (Sexual Offences) Amendment Act 2016,25 protects children from exploitation in prostitution and from being trafficked for sexual purposes.

Child marriage

The Islanders Marriage Act26 provides that the minimum legal age of marriage for both girls and boys is 15 years. Marriage of a child between the ages of 15-18 requires consent from a parent, guardian or judge.27 The legal age of marriage is not applicable to customary marriages, for which there is no age restriction.28 The practice of early marriage in the Solomon Islands has decreased but remains common in rural areas and among poor populations, with parents believing an early marriage will protect their daughters and provide them with economic opportunities.29

A study conducted by UNICEF found that between 2012 and 2018, amongst women aged 20-24, 6% were married before turning 15, and 21% were married before 18.30 Further, within the same timeframe, 4% of men aged 20-24 were married before turning 18.31 Traditional customs within Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian communities may lead to child marriage as a method of ensuring that land ownership remains within the family.32

Save the Children indicated in 2015 that foreigners working in the logging industry had also been marrying children within Solomon Islands.33 These workers were seen as a prosperous option and so families encouraged children to marry in an attempt to alleviate the hardships of poverty.34

Family, community & society

The Church, along with kastom (traditional beliefs and practices), sets an important context for the norms, attitudes, and behaviors of Solomon Islanders. Like most parts of the Pacific, Solomon Island cultures are traditionally collectivist, characterized by deep obligations to family and tribe.35

Harmful traditional practices

Harmful practices include bride price practices – in which a payment is made by the groom and the groom’s family to the bride’s family at the time of marriage -, traditional forgiveness practices, the burning of mainly female witches for alleged sorcery and early or arranged or forced marriages. The understanding of the purpose of bride price practices appears to be changing generationally; where once it was seen as compensation to the family for ‘loss’ of their daughter, it is now seen more in terms of how it bestows social status on the woman, and more generally the commodification of women where, once paid, the groom ‘owns’ the bride thereby paving the way for the justification of ill-treatment or domestic violence as ‘discipline’.36;;


Witchcraft-related persecution continues to be an issue in Solomon Islands. Such violence typically targeted the most vulnerable persons: young women, widows without male sons, and the elderly.37

Women accused of witchcraft and sorcery are beaten and burned with hot iron bars and killed. They are considered evil, inhuman, and deserving a ghastly fate.38 The government and church authorities have not paid much serious attention to incidents that are related to sorcery and witchcraft. Reports indicate that the number of people practicing sorcery and witchcraft and the cases of suspicious incidents are rapidly increasing across Solomon Islands.39 According to Amnesty International UK, Sorcery-related violence in Solomon Islands is a significant barrier to progress and development, particularly for women, who are more likely to be accused, and to suffer extreme forms of violence for it, than men.40;

According to the US State Department, “Nongovernmental organizations operate 11 safe houses throughout the country. The safe houses receive funding from church groups and international donors, but do not receive government funding or support.”41

Restrictions on sexual health and reproductive rights

The sexual health and reproductive rights of women are subject to sociocultural and economic restrictions. Women are unable to access adequate healthcare and lack the power to make important decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health.42 Women with disabilities and those residing in rural areas are mostly affected.43

The Penal Code Act44 criminalizes abortion, and imposes a severe penalty of life imprisonment. However, it is permissible if performed to save the mother’s life under Section 221. Section 158 of the Penal Code criminalizes abortion, with a penalty of life imprisonment for anyone who intentionally “procure[s] the miscarriage of a woman”, including the woman herself except before the foetus “is capable of being born alive” and where it is necessary to save the life of the woman. The spouse or next of kin and two physicians must consent and submit signed recommendations. In case of incest, adolescent girls are presumed to be at fault in the eyes of the law and can face up to 7 years of imprisonment.45; Also note that the protection from discrimination section of the Constitution is included in Annex 1 for reference.

Discrimination in law

Inequality and discrimination in law against women and girls is embedded in both legislation and customs. The Constitution expressly provides for circumstances where discrimination is permissible by law under Section 15 (5), (6) and (9), and by any person exercising authority under any written law or in the performance of the function of any public office or any public authority in subsections (7), (8) and (10).

Despite the Constitutional prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex/gender, there are a number of laws which do not to uphold gender equality and non-discrimination. These include the Citizenship Act46 under which a woman can only acquire citizenship in the husbands’ State after 2 years; and the Labor Act47 in relation to protection of domestic workers and restrictions on maternity leave. In addition to this, the Divorce Act48 does not provide criteria for division of marital property and courts rely on common law and custom to allocate resources upon dissolution of marriages to the disadvantage of women. Although the Wills, Probate and Administration Act49,%20PROBATE%20AND%20ADMINISTRATION%20ACT%201987.pdf grants both men and women equality regarding inheritance, customary rules may lawfully be applied in conflict with legislation to the disadvantage of female partners in family-run businesses.

Rape and sexual abuse of women

The measures for determining what sexual assault is and when sexual assault occurs under the Penal Code Act offer the female victim inadequate protection. Indecent assault is used to cover all offences that do not involve penile penetration and imposes a sentence of only 5 years, regardless of the severity of the assault.50 Consequently, whilst penile rape is seriously regarded, other sexual violations against women are not. The inclusion of different categories of rape for girls aged under 13 years and girls aged 13 to 15 years imposing vastly different sentences (life imprisonment for the former and 5 years for the latter) is based on an erroneous assumption that it is less serious and harmful to assault a ‘more mature’ girl.51

Common law procedural principles also hinder equality under the law. The court may use admission of the prior sexual history of a victim in order to establish that she consented to the sexual act in question.52 It is presumed that the victim’s previous sexual relationship with either the accused or others makes it more likely she consented.53

Section 164 of the Penal Code Act provides that any female person of or above the age of fifteen years who with consent permits her grandfather, father, brother or son to have sexual intercourse with her (knowing him to be her grandfather, father, brother or son, as the case may be) shall be guilty of a felony, and shall be liable to imprisonment for seven years for incest.

Gender based violence

Violence against women and girls is often premised on social insecurity, the complexity of local gender relations, and notions of kastom.54;
The violence that women facerange from sexual violence, coercion, emotional or physical violence which is inflicted by intimates and non-partners. Physical violence against women, particularly wives and female relatives has always been explained in the context of discipline to retain the moral status of husbands and male relatives.55 Most elders, including some women, believe wife-beating is culturally justified for disloyal or disobedient wives.56;
It is viewed as a form of discipline for breaking social norms and not living up to social expectations of women’s roles.57Macintyre, M. (2012). Gender Violence in Melanesia and the Problem of Millennium Development Goal No. 3. In C. Brewer, M. Jolly & C. Steward (Eds.), Engendering Violence, (pp. 239-266) Accessed on 9 September 2021; Soaki, S. (2017). Casting her vote: Women’s Political Participation in Solomon Islands. In M. Macintyre, & C. Spark (Eds.), Transformations of Gender in Melanesia (pp. 95-114). Canberra, Australia: Australia National University Press.

LGBTI+ rights

Same-sex relationships between men or women are
Individuals in same-sex relationships may attract penalties of up to 14 years in prison under the Penal Code (Revised Edition 1996). There are, however, no reports of these laws being used to prosecute LGBTI+ persons in recent years.

Section 160 of the Penal Code (Revised Edition 1996) refers to same-sex sexual activity as an ‘unnatural’ offence. It provides that any person who (a) commits buggery with another person or with an animal; or (b) permits a male person to commit buggery with him or her, shall be guilty of a felony, and shall be liable to imprisonment for fourteen years. An attempt to commit such acts is punishable under Section 161. It states that any person who attempts to commit buggery, or who is guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or any indecent assault upon any male person shall be guilty of a felony, and shall be liable to imprisonment for seven years. In addition to this, Section 162 criminalizes indecent practices as defined under section 2 with respect to persons of the same sex. It provides that any person who, whether in public or private, (a) commits any act of gross indecency with another of the same sex; (b) procures another of the same sex to commit any act of gross indecency; or (c) attempts to procure the commission of any act of gross indecency by persons of the same sex, shall be guilty of a felony and liable to imprisonment for five years.

In 2008, the Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission proposed decriminalization of homosexual acts but this was met with fierce public opposition due to the country’s strong Christian values and no reform was brought

The human rights of LGBTI+ persons are not adequately protected as prescribed under international human rights law. There are no laws prohibiting discrimination against a person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, in all areas of public life, including employment, education, health care and the provision of goods and services. This is the result of the absence of sexual orientation and gender identity from being included in the list of non-discriminatory grounds under Section 15(4) of the Constitution of Solomon Islands as amended.

Incidents of abuse in religious institutions

Sexual abuse is reported to be prevalent in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands formulated a policy to encourage victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy to come forward.60 The policy outlines steps for investigating wrongdoing within the Church.61 The victim may seek remedy either through criminal process, or the Church process.62 A contact person from the Church determines whether there was wrongdoing before selecting the forum that the victim may seek justice.63

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Section 3(b) of the Constitution provides that every person is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedom of conscience of expression and of assembly and association, regardless of race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex. The enjoyment of the freedom of expression is subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest.

Section 12(1) protects the right to freedom of expression. It provides that no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression. This includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with his correspondence. However, it may be restricted by law on the grounds (a) in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; (b) for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts, or regulating the administration or the technical operation of telephony, telegraphy, posts, wireless, broadcasting or television; or (c) that imposes restrictions on public officers, and except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.

However, in November 2020, the government began considering a ban on Facebook, citing concerns including “abusive language” and in the name of “national unity”.64;
Amnesty International denounced the proposal, which was also criticized by the Chamber of Commerce, government MPs, and members of the opposition.65
The government decided to reverse its plan for a national ban on Facebook in January 2021.66

In 2018, Solomon Islands adopted the Whistleblowers Protection Act,67 which was expected to facilitate journalistic efforts to report on political corruption. In 2019, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticized the use of defamation laws, warning that they intimidated journalists and encouraged self-censorship.68 In May 2020, Solomon Islands police disclosed they were investigating commentator Wendy Amangongo, who wrote several critical articles over Solomon Islands–China diplomatic relationship, for allegedly breaching emergency measures.69

Blasphemy and apostasy laws

Part XV of the Penal Code Act deals with offences relating to religion. Section 131 criminalizes insult to religion of any class. It provides that any person who destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship or any object which is held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section 132 criminalizes any disturbance of religious assemblies. Any person who voluntarily causes disturbance to any assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious assemblies worship or religious ceremony, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Section 133 deals with trespassing in any place of worship. It provides that any person who, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person or of insulting the religion of any person or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted thereby, commits any trespass in any place of worship… shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Whereas section 135 criminalizes writing or uttering words with intent to wound religious feelings. To that effect it provides that any person who, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any other person, writes any word, or any person who, with the like intention, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of any other person or makes any gesture or places any object in the sight of any other person, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and shall be liable to imprisonment for one year.

Freedom of assembly and association

The right of peaceful assembly and association is protected under Section 3 of the Constitution, subject to limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of the freedom by any individual does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest or national security. The national laws which govern the exercise of this freedom include the 1956 Processions and Public Assemblies Act (as amended),70 the 2013 Police Act,71 and the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (No. 2) Regulations 2021.72

Under the 1956 Processions and Public Assemblies Act (as amended), any person who intends to hold a public assembly must seek authorization within 48 hours prior to holding such a public assembly. An unlawful public assembly may be dispersed with or without use of force.

The police officers may use force as stipulated under the 2013 Police Act based on a number of principles, including “preserving the human rights of individuals” as provided under section 4 of the Act. Section 54, mandates a Police officer to take steps that he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, is necessary to suppress a riot. Section 68(1) provides that a Police officer may use “reasonable and proportionate force” in the exercise of his or her duties. Section 68(2) of the 2013 Police Act stipulates that potentially lethal force or force which is likely to cause grievous bodily harm may only be used where necessary to prevent death or serious injury.

Section 14 (1) of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 provides that a person may not participate in a public assembly or public procession in an emergency zone unless the Prime Minister, by Order, authorizes the public assembly or public procession. The Order authorizing the public assembly or public procession may specify the maximum number of individuals that may participate, the area where the public assembly or public procession may be held, or the procedures and measures necessary in the public interest to regulate the public assembly or public procession. A breach of Section 14 attracts a fine of SID 10,000 or 5 years imprisonment, or both.

On 29 July 2021, the State of Public Emergency was extended for another four months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic despite there being only 20 reported cases in the country.73 Parts of Honiara, the Western Border and Malaita Outer Islands are currently declared emergency zones.74 On 12 August, Solomon Islands Attorney General issued a stern warning to people that public assemblies or processions of any form will not be allowed under the current state of emergency unless authorized by the Prime Minister.75


3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
8; Aid to the Church in Need International, 2020.
18, 19
20 World Travel and Tourism Council. (2020). Solomon Islands Annual Research: Key Highlights.
21 Save the Children. (2015). Dynamics of Child Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Solomon Islands. 35.
22, 33, 34
26, 27
28, 29
30, 31
37, 41
38, 39
45; Also note that the protection from discrimination section of the Constitution is included in Annex 1 for reference.
50, 51, 52, 53
54, 56;
57 Macintyre, M. (2012). Gender Violence in Melanesia and the Problem of Millennium Development Goal No. 3. In C. Brewer, M. Jolly & C. Steward (Eds.), Engendering Violence, (pp. 239-266) Accessed on 9 September 2021; Soaki, S. (2017). Casting her vote: Women’s Political Participation in Solomon Islands. In M. Macintyre, & C. Spark (Eds.), Transformations of Gender in Melanesia (pp. 95-114). Canberra, Australia: Australia National University Press.
60, 61, 62, 63
68, 69
73, 74, 75

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