02/25/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – Yesterday, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed India’s latest anti-conversion law. The new law allows the state government to regulate all religious conversions and criminalizes forced religious conversions.
The new law, entitled the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill 2021, replaces an anti-conversion ordinance enacted by the executive branch of Uttar Pradesh in November 2020.
According to the text of the law, forceful religious conversions will be punished by a jail term of one to five years and a fine of 15,000 rupees. However, forceful religious conversions of minors, women, or members of low caste communities will be punished by jail term of three to ten years and a fine of 50,000 rupees.
Radical Hindu nationalists use the specter of mass religious conversions to Christianity and Islam as justification to pass laws limiting religious freedom. According to these nationalists, Indian Christians and Muslims are accused of converting poor Hindus to Christianity and Islam in mass by fraudulent means.
In regards to Christianity, India’s own population data does not support this conspiracy. In 1951, the first census after independence, Christians made up 2.3% of India’s population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still make up 2.3% of the population.
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is in spite of the fact that some of the anti-conversion laws have been on the books since 1967.
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