Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Last Updated 24 January 2023

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is an island in the Lesser Antilles Island arc. The territory of the island consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and the two-thirds of the Grenadines, which are a chain of smaller islands. SVG is a member of the Commonwealth. Its ceremonial head of State is monarch of the United Kingdom, who is also head of the Church of England.

According to the most recent census (2012), 82.3% of the population identify as Christian, a large proportion of which belong to the Pentecostal denomination. The census indicates a shift away from more established forms of Christian denominations such as Anglican, Methodist and Roman Catholic. The non-religious mark the second highest religion or belief group accounting for 7.5% of the population. Smaller proportions of the population identify as Rastafarian (1.1%), Hindu (0.1%) and Muslim (0.1%). The census showed a decline in the non-religious population compared to the 2001 census, and an increase in the Christian population.1

Severe Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws protect the rights to freedom of conscience, religion or belief, expression, assembly and association. Article 9 of the Constitution enshrines the right to freedom of conscience, including freedom of thought and religion or belief.

There is no state religion, but the preamble states that people of SVG “have affirmed that the Nation is founded on the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man.”2

Under Article 26 of the Constitution, religious ministers may not hold government office.

Education and children’s rights

Article 9 of the Constitution forbids any person from being forced to receive instruction or participate in any religious ceremony or observance relating to a religion that is not their own. The article also gives religious institutions the right to establish educational institutions at their own expense.

According to the SVG Education Bill 2005,3 “religious education must be a part of the curriculum of every public or assisted private school at the primary, all- age secondary level.” But it is not a condition of admission that the student participates in religious education or attends or abstains from attending any place of religious instruction.

According to the US State Department’s 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom:4

“Students in public schools receive nondenominational religious instruction based on Christianity. Christian prayers are recited at school assemblies, although attendance and participation are not mandatory. Students wishing to opt out of Christian prayer or religious education classes are excused from participation.”

Family, community and society

In March 2020, the government decriminalized the use and possession of up to 56 grams of marijuana, and the Medical Cannabis Authority reported it granted some licenses to “traditional cultivators,” including members of the Rastafarian community. The Rastafarian community report increasing tolerance to their way of life and greater societal acceptance. However, they continue to face barriers to employment.5

LGBTI+ rights

While the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, place of origin, political opinion, color or creed, no specific legislation addresses discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or social status. A 2021 United Nations report indicates that members of the LGBTI+ community “faced stigma and discrimination, including challenges in accessing basic health-care and social services and greater difficulties in finding jobs.”6A/HRC/WG.6/39/VCT/2 available at:

Consensual same-sex relationships remain criminalized under the 1988 Criminal Code and are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, although the laws are reportedly rarely enforced in practice.7;

In 2019, two gay men filed a challenge against the criminalisation of private, consensual same-sex sexual activity under sections 146 and 148 of the Criminal Code.8 A coalition of 10 Christian churches was permitted by the High Court to be party to the case.9 The coalition reportedly organized a rally in which a lawyer representing the group is reported to have stated that the legal challenge represented “a challenge against God himself because in the essence of this challenge, we are called upon to call a wrong right and to call what is wrong permissible and allowable in the guise of human rights […] the essence of it, I believe it is a challenge against morality.”10

Since the filing of the challenge, local LGBTI+ groups have reported increased harassment.11

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The constitution guarantees the freedoms of expression and communication, which are usually upheld in practice.12 Criminal and civil defamation laws remain on the statute books and are used. The 2016 Cybercrime Act13 broadened the definition and scope of defamation to include online publications; violation of its often vaguely worded provisions can carry a fine of as much as EC$500,000 ($185,000) and up to seven years’ imprisonment.

Blasphemy laws

There are several articles in the Criminal Code which do, or in some cases might, constitute anti-blasphemy provisions.14

The clearest such provision is article 289 which inter alia criminalizes “blasphemous” or “profane” speech “in any public place” and is punishable with a three-month prison term:

“289. Any person who uses any abusive, blasphemous, indecent, insulting, profane or threatening language—
(a) in any public place;
(b) in any place to the annoyance of the public; or
(c) in any circumstances likely to cause a breach of the peace,
is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for three months.”

Article 279 considers publications that may be privileged with respect to defamation (i.e. exempt from the charge of defamation, for example because the defendant successfully pleaded that their claim was true, or was an expression of opinion ‘in good faith’). However, 279 (a) precludes “blasphemous” matter from such considerations, saying: “if the court prohibits the publication of anything said, done or shown before it, on the grounds that it is seditious, immoral or blasphemous, the publication thereof shall not be privileged.”

Three consecutive articles under the heading “Offences relating to religion” further criminalize various acts on the basis of hurting religious feelings or offending specifically religious persons, with no equivalent redress for non-religious persons.

Article 117 criminalizes destructive acts intended to “insult” religion, with a prison term up to five years. Article 117 is limited to a physical act which “destroys, damages or defiles” places of worship or objects, therefore a ‘blasphemous’ expression alone should not fall under this article; however it is limited in its application only to specifically religious places, objects and persons who feel ‘insulted’, with physical offenses against the places or property associated with non-religious worldviews not receiving similar treatment.

Article 118 (1) criminalizes “Any person who causes disturbance to any assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship or ceremony […] liable to imprisonment for two years.” Article 118 (2) increases the punishment to five years if the person was asked to stop and refused. The very broad term “disturbance” and the restriction of the article to specifically religious places and ceremonies indicates that, for example, an otherwise legitimate protest against a religious practice or leader might fall foul of this article.

Article 119 is even broader, in that it restricts essentially any form of expression where it is found that the accused had “intended” to upset “religious feeling,” and is again punishable in principle with a prison term:

“Any person who with the intention of wounding the religious feeling of any other person, writes any word, or utters any word or makes any gesture or sound in the sight or hearing of any other person, or places any object in the sight of any other person, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for two years.”

According to a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, these laws have not been enforced, though they remain on statute.15


6 A/HRC/WG.6/39/VCT/2 available at:

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