In the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa, the nation is a former Portuguese colony comprising two islands and several islets, which gained independence in 1975.
There are around 220,372 inhabitants of São Tomé and Príncipe. It is estimated that 56% are Catholics, 12% are Protestants, and 2% are Muslims. Accounting for 21% of the population the non-religious are the second largest religion or belief group.
The Constitution of São Tomé and Príncipe guarantees freedom of conscience, religion and worship (Article 27). The Constitution expressly emphasizes that all rights should be interpreted in sympathy with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 8 explicitly stipulates that São Tomé and Príncipe is a secular state and that all religious institutions are separated from state institutions.
According to Article 264 of the Penal Code (as revised in 2012), anyone who “publicly mocks or offends another in such a way as to disturb public peace, on account of their beliefs or religious functions” may face up to one year in prison or a fine. The same penalty applies to those who publicly desecrate a place or object of religious veneration. Attempting to commit the above crimes is also a punishable offense. This law represents a de facto blasphemy law.
Further, under Article 267 of the Penal Code, “Whoever publicly mocks or vilifies an act of religious worship is punished with imprisonment of up to 1 year or a fine up to 100 days.”
The Penal Code also criminalizes the insults against a minister of any religion in the legitimate exercise of their ministry, penalties are those provided for under the “defamation” portion of the code multiplied by one-third.
The US State Department reports that, “[w]hile blasphemy cases were alleged during past years, they were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.”