South Asia

Conversion to Christianity banned in Nepal

A law that makes evangelism and religious conversion punishable by up to five years in prison has been signed into law by Nepal’s President Bidhya Devi Bhandari.

Lawmakers first passed the bill on 8 August. Human rights activists had called for the bill to be amended before it was approved. But anyone convicted under the new law, including foreign visitors, could face up to five years iin prison for seeking to convert a person or “undermine the religion, faith or belief that any caste, ethnic group or community has been observing since sanatan [eternal] times.”

Anyone who “hurts religious sentiment” also faces up to two years in prison and 2,000 rupee fine. The constitution establishes Nepal as a secular country with 81.3% population as Hindu, 9.0% Buddhist, 4.4% Muslim, 3.0% Kiratist (indigenous ethnic religion), 1.4% Christian, 0.2% Sikhs, 0.1% Jains and 0.6% follow other religions or no religion according to the 2011 census.

 

Church leader Pastor Tanka Subedi had this to say of the situation “We are deeply saddened that this bill is now law. Our appeals to the president and other policy makers to amend this have been ignored. Nepali government have taken a regressive step as this law severely restricts our freedom of expression and our freedom of religion or belief.”

The constitution establishes Nepal as a secular country with 81.3 per cent population as Hindu, 9.0 per cent Buddhist, 4.4 per cent Muslim, 3.0 per cent Kiratist (indigenous ethnic religion), 1.4 per cent Christian, 0.2 per cent Sikhs, 0.1 per cent Jains and 0.6 per cent follow other religions or no religion according to the 2011 census.