The criminal code bill which is approved by the President Bidhya Devi Bhandari in August this year established constitutional protections for Hinduism. This bill restricts religious conversion to Christianity. This criminal code bill is an open declaration of a worse threat to minority faiths living under the officially Hindu state of Nepal.
A section of the new law reads, “No one should involve or encourage in conversion of religion. No one should convert a person from one religion to another religion or profess their own religion and belief with similar intention by using or not using any means of attraction and by disturbing religion or belief of any ethnic groups or community that being practiced since ancient times.”
Article 26 of the constitution stated that, “No one shall attempt to change or convert someone from one religion to another, or disturb the religion of others, and such activities shall be punishable by law.”
If anyone found guilty, “there will be punishment of five years of imprisonment and penalty of fifty thousand rupees. If foreigners are found guilty, they will have to be deported within seven days after completing the imprisonment in third clause.”
Christians were banned from living in Nepal since1960. The village council known as ‘Panchayat System’ resulted in persecution of minority religious groups by the state between 1960 and 1990. Over the following decades, Christianity grew by 10 to 20 % annually which is making Nepal one of the Asia’s most stunning church growth stories.
Despite the legal threats, Nepal has seen its Christian population triple over the past few decades due to conversions. And the government which is controlled by the Hindu religion is trying to control it.
The United States Department of State flagged anti-conversion and blasphemy laws as one of its biggest concerns for religious freedom globally. The US State Department said in 2012 that such laws often violate freedoms of religion and expression and often are applied in a discriminatory manner.”