Republic of Burundi
[Country Profile Page]
|Social and Moral Index||186th best|
|Life Expectancy||61.66yrs (2017)2|
Burundi is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Burundi does better than average for its nominal commitment to Human Rights3. But unfortunately Burundi gets most other things wrong. It does worse than average when it comes to opposing gender inequality4 (still good for Africa), speed of uptake of HR treaties5, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms6, supporting press freedom7, freethought8 and in LGBT equality9. And finally, it sits amongst the bottom 20 in terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports10 (amongst the lowest in Africa). In 2017, government forces persecuted political opponents, and they and the Imbonerakure "were responsible for numerous killings, disappearances, ab-ductions, acts of torture, rapes, and arbitrary arrests"11 and a Human Rights Council affiliated body stated that it beliefs crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 201511
|Compared to Africa (2020)12|
|Pos.||Lower is better|
|39||Central African Rep.||121.2|
|41||Sao Tome & Principe||123.8|
|Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)12|
|Pos.||Lower is better|
|165||Sao Tome & Principe||123.8|
The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark13. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu13.
The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe13, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia13.
For more, see:
Amnesty International's 2023-23 summary on human rights in Burundi stated:
“Officials failed to uphold the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Many independent human rights organizations were not allowed to operate and many civil society actors remained in exile. Targeted attacks by security forces and the Imbonerakure (the ruling party‚€ôs youth wing) continued against government critics and members of the opposition, including arbitrary arrests and detention and enforced disappearances. Detainees‚€ô rights were violated. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission faced accusations of bias. The government‚€ôs failure to address fuel shortages and an ill advised decision to ban bicycles, tricycles and motorbikes from Bujumbura‚€ôs city centre adversely affected the cost of living, impacting social and economic rights. Some returning refugees were subjected to harassment, intimidation and attacks.”
"The State of the World's Human Rights 2022/23" by Amnesty International (2023)14
“Through 2017, as government forces targeted real and perceived opponents with near total impunity. Security forces and intelligence services - often collaborating with members of the ruling party's youth league, known as the Imbonerakure - were responsible for numerous killings, disappearances, ab-ductions, acts of torture, rapes, and arbitrary arrests. Unknown assailants carried out grenade and other attacks, killing or injuring many people. [...] Human Rights Watch documented how in 2015 and 2016, members of the Imbonerakure and police - sometimes armed with guns, sticks, or knives - raped women whose male family members were perceived to be government opponents. [...]
In September, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, established by the Human Rights Council a year earlier, said it had "reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015. [...] Burundi continues to refuse any form of cooperation with the commission. In October, judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized an investigation into crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015. ... Burundi's government adopted a plan [which if] passed by a vote in parliament or national referendum, Nkurunziza could possibly stay in power until 2034. ”
|Human Rights Watch Comments|
Higher is better10
Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.
|Nominal Commitment to HR|
Higher is better3
There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.
|HR Treaties Lag|
Lower is better5
Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.
For more, see:
|Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom|
Lower is better6
|121||Timor-Leste (E. Timor)||120|
The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...
“... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]
The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]
Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.”
"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)15
Lower is better7
The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index16
It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".
In 2017, "most leading civil society activists and many independent journalists remained in exile" and restrictions are increasing11.
Lower is better17
|164||Central African Rep.||2.23|
The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory18. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends19. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life20. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves21.
The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery22. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity23. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.
'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.24. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi25, Eritrea25, Indonesia26) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery27.
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Burundi is an unequal country, with male rights dominating those of women.
Lower is better4
The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.
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|Year Women Can Vote|
Lower is better
Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.
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Since 2009 a completely needless and prejudice law has been in place that criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct11.
Higher is better9
Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence29. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws30. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries29. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.
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|Freedom of Thought|
Lower is better8
|144||Papua New Guinea||3.5|
Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights31. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish32. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era33 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted34. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief35. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands8,36 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia8,37.
Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed38. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief32, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion39 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"40 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.
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