Blasphemy restricted in lawThe penal code of this 85-island nation includes provisions on “Insult to religion of any class”. Though largely focused on crimes that might otherwise be classed as vandalism, the full scope of the law is unclear.

Vanuatu’s constitution is largely secular, though its preamble might exclude non-believers with the words: “founded on traditional Melanesian values, faith in God, and Christian principles”. The document recognises “freedom of conscience and worship” as a fundamental right, avoiding the more general “thought” and “belief”.

The penal code sets a sentence of 2 years for insults to religion, defilement or destruction of religious objects and disrupting a religious assembly. Though the sentence only appears to apply in cases where property has been vandalized or destroyed, the broad term “insult” is problematic. It seems unlikely someone could be sent to prison for “insult” alone but this provision appears to inflate crimes that would otherwise be classed as vandalism, and given the broad term “defilement” it’s possible that a symbolic protest, for example, could be punished under this law.