Proposed Anti-Conversion Law Posing Threat To Religious Freedom In Nepal

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Anti-converison law to be introduced in Nepal

The anticipated anti-conversion laws could be a serious threat to the religious freedom in Nepal, according to some experts.

According to details, a new constitutional bill is being outlined which includes a clause that states: “No one shall behave, act or undertake activities that breach public order or break public peace/peace in the community; and no one shall attempt to change or convert someone from one religion to another, or disturb/jeopardise the religion of others, and such acts/activities shall be punishable by law.”

In anticipation of this newly proposed law, the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has expressed concerns that that this anti-conversion law could mean danger to religious freedom for Nepalese citizens. Nepal was the only official Hindu state in the world until 2008 however later on it was declared a secular republic.

In a briefing CSW said, “It fails to allow for choosing and changing one’s faith to be seen as a positive individual choice or as a matter of individual rights.” The release branded the draft clauses “inconsistent with the international human rights framework.”

“This endangers two internationally guaranteed fundamental rights of every individual: firstly the right to enjoy full freedom of expression, and secondly the right to follow a religion of his or her own choice and to manifest that religion in word and action,” the release states.According to the CSW this legislation could also misinterpreted as “anyone who talks about their faith to someone of a different religion could be accused of attempted conversion, and punished by law.”

Christians account for less than 2 percent out of the Hindu-majority population of 28 million people in Nepal. At the same time, the right-wing Rashtriya Prajatantra Party has sternly urged for a ban on all religious conversions and according to some media reports the Nepalese government has agreed to these demands.

CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas said, “The freedom to choose and change one’s faith is a fundamental right which must be upheld as an essential part of any constitution which adheres to international human rights principles. CSW continues to urge all political parties and leaders in Nepal to insist that this right be fully guaranteed in the new constitution.”