Marshall Islands

Last Updated 16 October 2018

The Marshall Islands have a mixed parliamentary-presidential system of governance.

Constitution and government Education and children’s rights Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values
Constitution and government
Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

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

The constitution provides for the free exercise of religion and equal protection under the law, regardless of religious beliefs. There are no legislative restrictions on religious practices.

Although there is no official state religion, Christianity is the dominant social and cultural influence. Governmental functions, by continuing custom, often begin and end with a church official delivering a Christian prayer. According to local residents, prayers before and after events are a longstanding cultural practice and part of the widely accepted tradition of the country.

Education and children’s rights

There is no religious education in public schools and no opening or closing prayers during the school day.

However, most extracurricular school events begin and end with an interdenominational Christian prayer.

There is state-funding of religious schools. In 2017 the government provided funding to 15 private religious schools totaling $295,000. Religious schools are not the only private schools eligible for funding, and are only funded after the needs of the public school system have been met.

Family, community and society

Most of the native population belong to a variety of Christian groups. A small Ahmadi Muslim minority reports discrimination not on the basis of being Ahmadi but because they are lumped in with Muslims and wrongly associated with international news incidents of Islamic extremism.

The constitution allows the government to extend financial aid to religious groups to provide nonprofit services (educational, medical, or social). Such services may not discriminate between “religious groups”.

However, it is unclear if religious groups providing public services can discriminate against potential staff or beneficiaries who are members of other groups on the basis of their own religious beliefs.

Indeed, labor laws and regulations do not specifically prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, age, disability, language, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status.

According to UN Women, 35 percent of women in the Marshall Islands experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Another UN study pointed out that 91 percent of women who experienced domestic violence at the hands of their partner or spouse did not report it due to fear of repercussion or belief that the abuse was justified. The prevalence of domestic violence is often attributed to patriarchal societal norms that place women in a subordinate cultural role.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedoms of expression and association are protected by law and respected in practice.

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