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Benin 2023-2024 Country Report

Historic Moment for Benin as New Law Legalizing Abortion Adopted in 2021| IPPF Africa

Benin, formerly Dahomey, gained independence from France in 1960. While initially a one-party socialist state, Benin transitioned to a democratic multiparty republic in 1989. Until 2016, Benin was one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Since 2016, an increasingly unstable political environment has led to human rights abuses and the potential for ethnic violence.  


In 2018, the government passed the Digital Code which restricts freedom of expression by criminalizing “false information” published online. The Digital Code has been used to silence opposition to President Patrice Talon. 


2018 presidential candidate Reckya Madougou was arrested and detained, removing any significant opposition to Talon’s re-election as President. In December 2021, Madougou was convicted and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison on charges of terrorism and plotting to assassinate political figures, despite a lack of evidence against him. 


Arbitrary arrests have accompanied growing reports of corruption in the government and the judicial system, despite creation of a High Commission for the Prevention of Corruption.   


Since 2021, Benin has suffered at least twenty attacks by al-Qaeda linked armed groups, such as Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM). The government has increased arrests by Benin police based on presumed ethnic affiliation with armed groups.  


70% of Benin women experience gender-based violence (GBV) during their lifetimes. In 2021 a law was promulgated that expands punishments for GBV.  Child marriage is common with 30.6% of girls married under 18. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a widespread practice.  


The 2018 penal code, decriminalized same-sex relationships. However, violence against LGBTQ+ individuals remains high. In April 2021, three transgender women were forced to undress, then beaten and robbed by a group of men in Cotonou. On another occasion, a transgender woman was beaten by police with sticks and machetes, stripped naked, and detained for three days, while deprived of clothes and food. This violence against LGBTQ+ individuals violated Articles 15 and 18 of the 1990 Benin Constitution.  


Due to arbitrary arrests and violence against LGBTQ+ persons, Genocide Watch considers Benin to be at Stage 3: Discrimination, Stage 4: Dehumanization, and Stage 8: Persecution.  


Genocide Watch Recommends:  

-Benin should enforce Law no. 2003-03 prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation.  

-Benin should educate its police to stop violence against LGBTQ+ individuals.  

-Benin should prosecute attacks against political opponents and LGBTQ+ individuals. 

Benin 2023
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