The constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom of individuals to change their religion. It prohibits discrimination based on religious belief.
The Ministry of Nevis Affairs, Labor, Social Security, and Ecclesiastical Affairs is responsible for registering religious groups. Religious groups are not required to register, but doing so provides the government with a database of contacts through which it disseminates information on government policy for religious groups. Registration also allows religious groups to act as charities and import religious items duty-free.
The constitution allows religious groups to establish and maintain schools at the religious community’s own expense. Public schools offer Christian religious instruction, daily prayers, and religious assemblies; students who do not want to attend are exempt from all religious activities. Public schools require vaccinations for children to attend school.
The government prohibits the use of marijuana, including for religious purposes.
The law does not prohibit the wearing of dreadlocks; however, businesses may restrict it for safety or hygiene reasons. Occupational safety and health legislation requires all employees, including those with dreadlocks, to cover their hair when using dangerous equipment, handling food, or undertaking health-related activities.
The country is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Civil society and representatives of the Organization for Rastafarian Unity (ORU) stated that police sometimes stopped Rastafarians for marijuana use and possession but did not single out or harass them specifically because of their religion.
The Ministry of Health continued to require the immunization of all children before enrolling in school, but ORU sources said the government allowed waivers for unvaccinated Rastafarian children attending public schools. Some children of the Rastafarian community were home schooled, but statistics were not available.
Prison officials allowed Rastafarian prisoners to keep their dreadlocks unless they posed health-related issues or used them to transport contraband. The prison did not provide different diets based on prisoners’ religious dietary restrictions.
On August 21, media reported that the government met with Christian religious leaders to discuss programs to address societal issues including youth crime, gangs, and other antisocial behavior. The same report noted the government regularly collaborated with Christian, Muslim, and Rastafarian religious leaders as part of the government’s strategy to engage social partners in policy development.
The government allowed Rastafarian groups equal access to public venues for religious celebrations.