The right to freedom of worship

During Easter, billions of Christians around the world commemorate the death of Jesus Christ and celebrate his resurrection as they believe him to be the Saviour of the world. Christianity is one of many religions around the world. Each religion has its own doctrine, practices and worship.

In Rwanda, every person has the right to freedom of worship. This right is also extended to children. Under article 14 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child and under article 9 of N°71/2018 of 31/08/2018 law relating to the protection of the child, children have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The freedom of conscience, thought and religion is subject to guidance from parents or guardians, depends on a child’s age and level of understanding, and is subject to the laws of Rwanda. A child must also put into consideration other people’s fundamental rights and freedoms in practicing his/her religion.

This means that the child must not discriminate against anyone based on their religion, mock them or intentionally perform acts which are offensive to another person’s religion. It’s also against the law to interfere with public health and order such as causing noise pollution in the name of religion. It is also important to practice a religion which is legally recognised.

Nº68/2018 of 30/08/2018 law determining offences and penalties in general (the Penal Code) prescribes punishment for offenses against freedom of worship.

Article 153 of the Penal Code of Rwanda outlaws obstruction of smooth running of religious rituals. Obstruction can be done through use of violence, insults, threats, and by compelling or preventing one or more persons from practicing religious rituals or celebrating religious festivals of a religion that is legally recognised.

It is also considered obstruction if one causes trouble or disorder which may prevent, delay or interrupt religious rituals which are being conducted in public in a legally recognised manner.

If anyone is convicted of this kind of obstruction, they are liable to jail sentence of one to two years, or a fine ranging from Rwf 1m to 2m. The punishment is higher if the offense is committed by a group of people; they are liable to a minimum term of imprisonment of three years, or a minimum fine of Rwf 3m.

Another offense against freedom of worship is defamation of religious rituals. Under article 154 of the Penal Code of Rwanda, defamation of religious rituals constitutes actions, words, signs, writings, gestures or threats carried out on rituals, symbols, and religious cult objects in places intended or normally gazetted for performance of religious rituals.

Anyone found guilty of the abovementioned crime is liable to a minimum of 15 days in prison and/or a fine ranging from Rwf 100,000 to Rwf 200, 000.

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