Gambia, The
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Features of Constitution1

Is there a constitution? Yes
Does the constitution provide for freedom of religion? Yes


Constitution Year 1996
Last Amended As of 5/11/2011, last amendment was made in 2009
Source The National Council for Civic Education (The Gambia)
Translation Original was written in English
Current as of 2001 (Does not include subsequent amendments)

Constitution Excerpts (clauses that reference religion)2


In the name of God, the Almighty.
… The fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in this Constitution will ensure for all time respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to ethnic considerations, gender, language or religion. In acknowledging our fundamental rights we also affirm our duties and responsibilities as citizens of this Country.
…In this spirit, we continue to pledge our firm allegiance to our beloved Country and and pray that the Great God of Nations will keep us all ever true to The Gambia.

1. The Republic

(1) The Gambia is Sovereign Secular Republic.
(2) The Sovereignty of The Gambia resides in the people of The Gambia from whom all organs of government derive their authority and in whose name and for whose welfare and prosperity the powers of government are to be exercised in accordance with this Constitution.

17. Fundamental rights and freedoms

(1) The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected and upheld by all organs of the Executive and its agencies, the Legislature and, where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in The Gambia, and shall be enforceable by the courts in accordance with this Constitution.
(2) Every person in The Gambia, whatever his or her race, color, gender, Language, religion, political or other opinion, National or social origin, property, birth or other status, shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this chapter, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest.

20. Protection from slavery and forced labor

(1) No person shall be held in slavery or servitude.
(2) No person shall be required to perform forced labor.
(3) For the purposes of this section, the expression "forced labor" does not include –
(a) any labor required in consequence of a sentence or order of a court;
(b) labor required of any person while he or she is lawfully detained that, though not required in consequence of the sentence or order of the court, is reasonably necessary in the interests of hygiene or for the maintenance of the place in which he or she is detained;
(c) any labor required of a member of a defense force in pursuance of his or her duties as such or, in the case of a person who has conscientious objections to service as a member of any naval, military or air force, any labor which that person is required by law to perform in place of such service;
(d) any labor required during a period of public emergency or in the event of any other emergency or calamity which threatens the life or well-being of the community, to the extent that the requiring of such labor is reasonably justifiable in the circumstances of any situation arising or existing during that period or as a result of that other emergency or calamity, for the purposes of dealing with that situation; or
(e) any labor reasonably required as part of reasonable and normal communal or other civic obligations.

25. Freedom of speech, conscience, assembly, association and movement

(1) Every person shall have the right to –
(a) freedom of speech and expression, which include freedom of the press and other media;
(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom;
(c) freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice;…
...(4) The freedoms referred to in subsections (1) and (2) shall be exercised subject to the law of The Gambia in so far as that law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the rights and freedoms thereby conferred, which are necessary in a democratic society and are required in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of The Gambia, national security, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court.

32. Culture

Every person shall be entitled to enjoy, practice, profess, maintain and promote any culture, language, tradition or religion subject to the terms of this Constitution and to the condition that the right protected by this section do not impinge on the rights and freedoms of others or the national interest, especially unity.

33. Protection from discrimination

(1) All persons shall be equal before the law.
(2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (5), no law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect.
(3) Subject to the provisions of subsection (5), no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or public authority.
(4) In this section, the expression "discrimination" means affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another such description are not made subject, or are accorded privileges or advantages which are not accorded to persons of another such description.
(5) Subsection (2) shall not apply to any law in so far as that law makes provision –
(a) with respect to persons who are not citizens of The Gambia or to qualifications for citizenship;
(b) with respect to the qualifications prescribed by this Constitution for any office;
(c) with respect to adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property on death or other matters of personal law;
(d) for the application in the case of members of a particular race or tribe of customary law with respect to any matter in the case of persons who, under that law, are subject to that law.
(6) Subsection (3) shall not apply to anything which is expressly or by necessary implication authorised to be done by any such provision of law as is referred to in subsection (5).
(7) The exercise of any discretion relating to the institution, conduct or discontinuance of civil or criminal proceedings in any court that is vested in any person by the Constitution or under any other law shall not be enquired into by any court on the grounds that it contravenes the provisions of subsections (3).

60. Political parties

(1) No association, other than a political party registered under or pursuant to an Act of the National Assembly, shall sponsor candidates for public elections.
(2) No association shall be registered or remain registered as a political party if –
(a) it is formed or organized on an ethnic, sectional, religious or regional basis;
(b) its internal organization does not conform with democratic principles; or
(c) its purpose is to subvert this constitution or the rule of law.
(3) An Act of the National Assembly shall make provisions for the better implementation of this section.

100. The legislative power

(1) The legislative power of The Gambia shall be exercised by Bills passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President.
(2) The National Assembly shall not pass a Bill –
(a) to establish a one party state;
(b) to establish any religion as a state religion; or
(c) to alter the decision or judgment of a court in any proceedings to the prejudice of any party to those proceedings, or deprive any person retroactively of vested or acquired rights, but subject thereto, the National Assembly may pass Bills designed to have retroactive effect.

120. The Courts and the judicial power

(1) The Courts of The Gambia are:
(i) the Supreme Court, (ii) the Court of appeal,
(iii) The High Court and the Special Criminal Court, and
(b) the Magistrates Courts, the Cadi Court, District Tribunals and such lower courts and tribunals as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.

132. Jurisdiction of High Court

…(2) The High Court shall have such jurisdiction in appeals from courts subordinate to it (other than the Cadi Court) as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

137. The Cadi Court

(1) A Cadi Court shall be established in such places in The Gambia as the Chief Justice shall determine.
(2) The Cadi Court shall be composed –
(a) for the hearings at first instance, by a panel consisting of the Cadi and two other scholars of the Sharia qualified to be a Cadi or Ulama; and [paragraph (b) deleted in 2001 amendment]
(3) The decision of the majority of a panel of a Cadi Court shall constitute the decision of the Court.
(4) The Cadi Court shall only have jurisdiction to apply the Sharia in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance where the parties or other persons interested are Muslims.
(5) Any party to a proceeding in the Cadi Court who is dissatisfied with a decision of the Court may appeal to the Cadi appeals Panel.
(6) A person shall be required to be of high moral standing and professionally qualified in the Sharia in order to be appointed a Cadi or Ulama.
(4) [sic] A party to the proceedings in the Cadi Court shall be entitled to be represented, at his or her own expense, by a person qualified in the Sharia.

137A. Cadi Appeals

(1) There shall be a Cadi Appeals Panel which shall consist of –
(a) a Chairperson; and
(b) not less than four other members.
(2) The Panel shall be constituted by three members of the Panel.
(3) The Chairperson of the Panel shall preside at a sitting of the Panel and in his or her absence, the most senior member shall preside.
(4) The Chairperson and other members of the Panel shall be appointed by a Cadi Appeal Selection Committee which shall consist of –
(a) the Chief Justice;
(b) the Attorney General; and
(c) a member of the Supreme Islamic Council nominated by that Council.
(5) A person shall not be qualified for appointment to the Panel –
(a) as a Chairperson, unless the person –
(i) is a legal practitioner and has been so qualified for a period of not less than five years, and
(ii) is professionally qualified in the Sharia;
(b) as a member, unless the person is professional qualified in the Sharia.
(6) The Panel shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from judgment of Cadi Court and from the District Tribunals where Sharia law is involved.

212. National integration and unity

(1) All organs of the state shall strive towards the realization of national unity, peace and stability.
(2) Every effort shall be made to integrate the people of The Gambia and foster loyalty to The Gambia without discrimination.
(3) All the people of The Gambia shall be entitled to their ethnic, religious and cultural values which do not disturb the unity or cohesion of the state.


1.  Data under the "Features of Constitution" heading are drawn from coding of the U.S. State Department's 2008 International Religious Freedom Reports conducted by researchers at the Association of Religion Data Archives. The article by Brian Grim and Roger Finke describes the coding of the International Religious Freedom reports. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.

2.  The constitutional excerpts shown above are reproduced from the websites given in the "Source" field; the links to these websites were active as of May 2011. Where the constitutional text shown on these websites was provided in a language other than English, this text was translated to English by ARDA staff with assistance from web-based translation utilities such as Google Translate and Yahoo! Babel Fish. Constitutional text was converted to American English where applicable. Constitutional clauses were judged to contain religious content based largely on the standards used in the construction of the Religion and State Constitutions Dataset collected by Jonathan Fox. Emphases were added to the text by ARDA staff to highlight religious content in articles that also contain content that does not pertain to matters of religion. The data on this page were correct to the best of the knowledge of the ARDA as of the date listed in the "Current as of" field shown above. Please contact us at if you are aware of any incorrect information provided on this page.

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