Nepal religious conversions
Violation of law will bring incarceration plus punitive monetary fines
The Government of Nepal enacted a law to restrict evangelism. Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the President of Nepal, signed into law a particular legislation which makes evangelism and subsequent religious conversion a punishable offense. If this law is broken, the convict may spend about five years behind bars. Signature on the legislation was done on October 16. The bill was passed in August.

Nepalese religious leaders severely criticized the law. They said that it is a backward step for religious freedom.

The law advocating sanctions comes about 10 years after the once Hindu kingdom declared itself a totally secular state. Nepal now has a new constitution. The landlocked country is not a pioneer in the region when it comes to pushing anti-conversion laws. Its neighboring country India and regional country Pakistan both have similar laws.

This criminal code bill pushes further constitutional protections solely for Hinduism, a religion followed by 80 percent of the Nepalese population. The law prohibits blasphemy. The new law reputedly stipulates that no person should involve oneself or provide encouragement in religious conversion. No person should convert another from one particular religion to any other or promote their personal belief or religion to disturb the sanctity of any religion which has been in practice from antiquity.

The new law goes further on to say that if guilty, the concerned person will be punished for up to five years behind bars. There may be also a monetary penalty amounting to 50,000 Nepali rupees. In case foreigners are caught under this crime, they will be subject to deportation post completion of imprisonment noted in the third clause.

Any person whose actions 'hurt religious sentiment' will be subject to two years' incarceration. A fine of 2,000 Nepali rupees will also be imposed. Pastor Tanka Subedi of Dharmik Chautari Nepal said, "We are deeply saddened that this bill is now law." Subedi heads the Religious Liberty Forum Nepal. He said, that prior appeals to the Nepalese President and policymakers for modifying this law have been completely ignored and this is “a regressive step as this law severely restricts our freedom of expression and our freedom of religion or belief." Other secularists fear that Nepal may turn into a totalitarian society where the rights of individuals are curbed.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter