Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom of individuals to change their religion, and senior government officials publicly defended the right of religious freedom. Religious organizations may register as nonprofit religious institutions with the government or register as corporations, which requires an application to parliament. According to a government official, the Islamic Center of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which operates three mosques, was in the process of formally registering as an incorporated organization, the first Islamic organization to do so. In April the government presented the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Bill to parliament, which proposes to decriminalize possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. Senior government officials stated publicly that Rastafarians and Hindus could use cannabis for sacramental purposes. Rastafarians were among the first to receive government licenses to cultivate medical marijuana legally. The possibility of exemption from vaccinations required for school enrollment remained under discussion between Ministry of Health officials and Rastafarians with school-age children. Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs officials said it was difficult to convince Rastafarian leaders to meet with them to discuss their concerns.
Rastafarians said they still faced societal discrimination because of their religious practices but cited the legalization of medical marijuana as evidence of the continued increase in societal acceptance of and tolerance for Rastafarian culture and traditions.
U.S embassy officials continued to raise discrimination against Rastafarians because of the decision of some Rastafarians to wear their hair in dreadlocks with the Ministry of Education, Reconciliation, Ecclesiastical Affairs, and Information and with the Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, Family, Gender Affairs, Persons with Disabilities, and Youth. Embassy officials also met with individuals from the Christian, Muslim, and Rastafarian communities to discuss governmental and societal support for religious freedom, including respect for religious minorities. The embassy used Facebook to promote messages about the importance of religious freedom and respect for religious diversity across the Eastern Caribbean.