This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Republic of Benin (Republique du Benin), based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Benin's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has no legal status.
Benin is country located in Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin. Benin is bounded by Niger, Nigeria, Togo, and Burkina Faso. The official capital of Benin is Porto-Novo. However, the seat of the government is in Cotonou. The official language is French. The country's population in 2017 was approximately 11 million. Benin is a predominantly Christian country, with about 49% of the population Christian. Islam is the largest minority religion in Benin, and about 28% of the country's population is Muslim. Benin is a member state of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Furthermore, Benin has a youthful age structure: almost 65% of the population is under the age of 25. This is largely due to Benin's high fertility rate and population growth rate. Benin’s total fertility rate has been falling over time but remains high, declining from almost 7 children per women in 1990 to 4.8 in 2016.
Constitution & Legal Structure
Benin is referred to as a presidential republic, in which sovereignty belongs to the people and the Constitution is the supreme law of the state. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Under the Constitution of Benin, freedom of thought, religion, opinion, creed, conscious, and expression are assured. The legal system of Benin is a civil law system that has been modeled largely on the French system, but is somewhat influenced by customary laws/ traditions.
Constitutional Status of Islamic Law
Islamic law has no constitutional status in Benin.
Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law
Islamic law has no official jurisdiction of operation in Benin.
Dominant School of Islamic Law
Benin has no official school of Islamic law. The vast majority of Benin's Muslim population are Yoruba, who live in the south and southeastern portions of the country. Muslims in Benin are mostly Sunnī (adhering to the Mālikī school).
Sources of Law for Legal Research
For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English and Arabic translation. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].