Kiribati (officially pronounced Kiribas) is a presidential republic, which gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979 and joined the United Nations as a full member in 1999. The majority of the population live on the largest island, Tarawa, but overpopulation is causing problems. Many on outer islands live at a near-subsistence level.

Kiribati looks set to disappear entirely thanks to global warming. The nation is comprised of 33 low-lying atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island. Some coastal communities have already had to relocate, and there is a threat to drinking water as fresh water aquifers become contaminated with sea water. In June 2008, the Kiribati President Anote Tong said Kiribati had reached “the point of no return” and: “To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that.”

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
Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values
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Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion, expression, and assembly. These rights are generally respected in practice. There is no state religion and the government does not favour a particular religious group.

Although there is no state religion, governmental meetings and events often begin and end with an ordained minister or other church official delivering a Christian prayer.

Religious groups with memberships of over 2% of the population are required to register with the government by submitting a request to the Ministry of Women, Youth and Social Affairs. There are no legal consequences for not registering. Registered religious organisations are subject to an income tax exemption. The government continued to administer a small grants program for church projects from registered religious organizations. It is unclear if analogous non-religious organizations would be permitted to apply for such funding.

Two islands in the southern part of Kiribati, Arorae and Tamana, uphold a “one church only” policy, apparently in deference to the first Protestant missionaries that visited the islands in the 1800s. Regardless of whether there is any demand, this may mean that the right to practice other religions is in practice restricted on these islands.

Education and children’s rights

There is no mandated religious education in public schools. (It is unclear if any religious education or instruction does occur, however.)

Communities of Baha’ís have played a significant role in development of the state’s education. By 1963 the Baha’is had established a number of schools. The Ootan Marawa Baha’i Vocational Institute is the only teacher training institution for pre-school teachers in Kiribati. The Institute is open to everyone, regardless of religion. Baha’i Local Spiritual Assemblies also administer 5 pre-schools on Tarawa and the outer islands, accepting children of any religious background. The Elena Marsella Institute is a national permanent Baha’i training institute that develops human resources needed in the growth of faith.

Family, community and society

Predominantly, the people of Kiribati are classed as Roman Catholics (55.8%). A variety of Christian groups make up most of the rest of the population including some Mormons (4.7 %). There are Baha’is, (2.3%), a small number of Muslims (0.12%). “Nones” account for 0.5% of the Kiribati population according to the 2010 Census.

The churches are socially influential and have been blamed for failing to curb the tradition of large families which led to overcrowding. However this attitude may now changing in the face of huge social and practical problems caused by overpopulation.

Abortion is banned in all circumstances and the sentence for a woman who procures an abortion could be a life prison sentence. Homosexuality between men is criminalized as “Indecent practices between males”. All anal sex is criminalized.

Rising sea levels linked to global warming pose an existential threat to the islands. In 2012 there was speculation that the entire population would be removed to Fiji. However, in April 2013, President Tong began urging citizens to migrate.