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ICC Note:

Recently, Nepal’s government decided to adopt two laws apparently to protect religious freedom within their borders. First, Nepal criminalize all efforts for an individual to attempt to change the religion of another. Second, Nepal added a blasphemy law to its criminal code. Unfortunately, both of these laws will do the opposite of protecting religious freedom. First, Nepal’s anti-conversion law will prove difficult to enforce and likely be widely abused as similar laws are in India. Second, the blasphemy laws will also likely be abused as they are in Pakistan to settle personal scores. Because of this, Christian leaders should stand against the adoption. 

09/06/2017 Nepal (Eurasia Review) – Religious communities in Hindu-majority Nepal need to press for changes to a new law impacting on religious freedom, which is inconsistent with the nation’s international commitments.

While there has been ongoing discussion of some specific aspects of the law, many Christian leaders have yet to grasp its wider implications.

On Aug. 9, amendments were made to the country’s 164-year-old general criminal code, known as the Muluki Ain.

The revised criminal code imposes sanctions for several offences not included in the old law.

Aspects of the new law can be considered as reforms.

However, it also incorporates ‘anti-conversion clauses’ which effectively narrow religious freedom, notably for minorities.

One government representative previously maintained that the criminal code amendments would protect freedom of religious belief, but within certain limits.

A critic of this justification compared it to allowing a bird to fly freely, but only within a narrow cage.

In late 2015, Kamal Thapa, then deputy prime minister, maintained that changes to be introduced to the criminal code would ensure full religious freedom.

However, the wording of one clause is similar to that contained in the blasphemy laws of Pakistan.

And the provision could be misused to settle personal vendettas in Nepal, especially against Christians.

In June last year, eight Nepali Christians were charged with attempting to convert children after they shared a comic book on the story of Jesus.

And Christian homes were raided by police on the basis of false accusations of attempted conversion of non-Christians.

These incidents provided an insight into the sort of things that could happen under the new criminal code.

Citizens were invited to submit comments on the updated code by April 14, 2016.

However, Christian leaders maintain that more than 45,000 written submissions on issues of concern were overwhelmingly ignored.

Sensitive issues of religious belief should not be criminalized under the law.

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