Predominantly Muslim, with an influential Christian minority, Sierra Leone’s religious practices tend to be syncretic and mixed with traditional belief. The state is secular, and regarded as one of the most religiously tolerant in the world. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each other peacefully. However, there are significant social problems and human rights concerns.

Rating: Mostly Satisfactory
Note: The expression of non-religious and secularist views may be largely untested in this country which has high religiosity, broader human rights concerns, and a population of around 6 million.

Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal
No Rating

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 guarantees all citizens the freedom to observe their own religious practices and to change religions without interference from the government or members of other religious groups. There is little or no interreligious violence.

Education and children’s rights

The government requires a standard Religion and Morals Education (RME) curriculum in all state schools through high school, which is comparative and covers Christianity, Islam, and other religions, however private Muslim schools opt for their own curriculum complaining that Islam is underrepresented. The curriculum does not appear to include any broader secular or philosophical content despite the “Morals” terminology. Instruction in a specific religion is permissible only in private schools organized by religious groups.

Following a prolonged period of minimal social interactions as part of Ebola epidemic controls, children returned to schools in early 2015, however “visibly pregnant” girls were to be disallowed to take exams in primary and secondary schools, according to Education Minister Minkailu Bah, making official an unspoken rule that: “if you have sex and get pregnant, you will not be allowed to associate with schoolgirls who are not pregnant.” According to Humanist Watch Salone (HUWASAL) sexual abuse including rape of school-aged girls rose “rapidly” during the Ebola crisis, while others had turned to “transactional sex” in order to support their families, according to UNICEF.

Family, community and society

Social tensions around religion or belief specifically, appear to be very low to non-existent. However, there are broader human rights concerns around vigilante violence against debtors, suspected thieves, and others.

Women are severely disadvantaged and discriminated against, especially under tribal norms that operate in most of the country (besides the capital). Women and girls are denied equal access to education, medical care, employment, and credit. A new Sexual Offenses Act only came into force in 2012, and rape and domestic abuse are still commonplace.

Homosexuality between men is illegal.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Rated “Partly free” by Freedom House, with emergency presidential powers invoke during the Ebola crisis being used to suppress journalists critical of the government. Two journalists who insulted the president in 2013 were charged with 26 counts of “seditious libel”. Government frequently interferes with media freedoms, practising censorship.