The Nepalese president is expected to approve a bill that will outlaw any attempt to convert someone to a different faith, as well as the “hurting of religious sentiment”.
The country’s parliament passed the law, which will effectively ban evangelisation, on August 8 as fears grow of a crackdown on religious minorities.
Anyone convicted under the new law, including foreign visitors, could face up to five years in 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 times”. The word sanatan denotes traditional, non-reformist Hinduism.
Anyone who “hurts religious sentiment” also faces up to two years in prison and a 2,000-rupee fine. The wording of the law echoes that of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, which criminalise any speech or gesture that seeks to “wound” religious feeling.
Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), a civil liberties group, said that last year eight Christians were arrested in Nepal after sharing a comic book on Jesus with children.
Since the overthrow of the monarchy in 2008, Nepal’s regime has become increasingly authoritarian, with Maoists and Leninists struggling to establish a stable government.
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