The constitution provides for freedom of religion as well as the right to change, manifest, and propagate the religion of one’s choice. Starting in January the government officially recognized marriages conducted under Rastafarian rites. Rastafarians said they continued to be reluctant to use marijuana for religious purposes because the government prohibited it and imposed fines for any use. The police stated that the number of Rastafarians arrested for possession of small quantities of marijuana significantly declined during the year. Rastafarians stated they continued to face discrimination in the school system because the Ministry of Education required vaccinations for all children attending school. Government officials and Rastafarian community members said some Rastafarian families decided to vaccinate their children or to homeschool.
According to the Islamic Association, some male and female members of the Muslim community said individuals occasionally harassed them when they wore head coverings and clothing identifying them as Muslim. The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean continued to hold interfaith meetings to promote respect for religious diversity and tolerance.
U.S. embassy officials raised the Rastafarian community’s general perception that police and education officials discriminated against them with government officials from the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government. Embassy officials also discussed with representatives from the ministry what Rastafarians said was government discrimination against them, including requiring immunizations for children to enter school and the government’s nonrecognition of Rastafarian traditional doctors. Embassy officials met jointly with government officials and leaders of the Rastafarian community to discuss cases of discrimination and the importance of freedom of religious expression. The embassy employed social media to spread messages about religious freedom and tolerance in the Eastern Caribbean, including for the November 16 International Day for Tolerance.