ADVERTISING
 
Saturday, October 21   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Nature
Is creation care seen as a priority in your church?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Tehmina Arora
 

The Spread of Anti-conversion Laws from India

Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar have also enacted similar laws, with Nepal going so far as to include them in the recently adopted constitution.

LAUSANNE MOVEMENT AUTHOR Tehmina Arora 27 JUNE 2016 12:42 h GMT+1
India, woman praying, christians A woman praying. / Dylan Damith Prasanga (CC)


The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.—M K Gandhi




VIOLENCE AGAINST MINORITIES IN INDIA



In spite of a rich tradition and legal framework supportive of freedom of conscience and the right to practise, profess, and propagate the religion of one’s choice, religious minorities in India find themselves frequent victims of religiously motivated violence. 



According to human rights groups, in 2015 there were over 160 incidents where Christians were targeted for their faith, with the highest number of incidents coming from Madhya Pradesh, followed by Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. The cases included physical assaults and threats and intimidation. In some instances, women reported being sexually assaulted and threatened.[i]



According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, there were over 630 communal incidents in January-October 2015. Communal violence in India registered a rise in incidents by 24%, and related deaths by 65%, in the first five months of 2015.[ii]



In its annual report for 2015, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) noted that since the 2014 general elections in India, religious minority communities have been subject to ‘derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’ and ‘numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups’ such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).[iii]



 



ALLEGATIONS OF RELIGIOUS CONVERSIONS



One of the primary causes of violence against the minority Christian population is the making of allegations of conversions by force and allurement. In a recent case,[iv] members of the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu extremist organisation, caught hold of a pastor and paraded him on a donkey in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh with his head half shaven. They alleged that the pastor converted a man without his consent. Similarly, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, police arrested 13 people, including a blind couple, on January 14, 2016, for allegedly trying to convert a few residents by offering inducements or using force.[v]



While there are numerous such incidents that come to light each year, there is very little evidence to show that Christians have engaged in coercive practices to gain new converts. Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, noted in her report on India in 2011 that:



‘Even in the Indian states which have adopted laws on religious conversion there seem to be only few—if any—convictions for conversion by the use of force, inducement, or fraudulent means. In Orissa, for example, not a single infringement over the past ten years of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967 could be cited or adduced by district officials and senior officials in the State Secretariat.’[vi]



In spite of the absence of credible data to support laws restricting religious conversions in India, there are voices within the government which have called for a national law.[vii] In April 2015, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh of the BJP called[viii] for a national level anti-conversion law in response to reports of coercive reconversions to Hinduism and various attacks against members of religious communities.[ix]



 



LEGAL RESTRICTIONS



Similar laws have been enacted at the state or province level in Odisha (previously known as Orissa) in 1967, Madhya Pradesh (1968), Arunachal Pradesh (1978), Gujarat (2003), and Himachal Pradesh (2006). Euphemistically titled ‘Freedom of Religion Act’, they are commonly known as anti-conversions laws:



- In 2002, the Tamil Nadu state assembly passed the Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill, which was repealed in 2004 after the defeat of the BJP-led coalition.



- In 2006, the BJP-led government in Rajasthan passed a similar freedom of religion bill. However, assent of the President of India is still pending ten years after the bill was forwarded to him.



- The BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh also unsuccessfully sought to tighten existing laws the same year.



 



BASIC FEATURES OF THE LAWS



These laws are very similar in content, and claim to prohibit conversions by force, fraud, and inducement or allurement. The Acts state that no person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means, nor shall any person abet any such conversion.



 



PUNISHMENTS



The Acts carry penal provisions and punishments, generally ranging from up to a one-year imprisonment and a fine of up to 5,000 Indian rupees to up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to 25,000 Indian rupees. The punishment is more stringent if there is evidence of conversion by force, fraud, or inducement among women, minors, and Dalits (formerly ‘untouchables’ as per India’s caste system), or Tribals. Failure to send notice to or seek permission from the district magistrate before converting or participating in a conversion ceremony also renders one liable for a fine under the Acts.



 



EFFECT OF THE LAWS



Reports from the various minority communities and human rights agencies reveal that these laws foster hostility against religious minority communities. In several states, prosecutions have been launched under the Freedom of Religion Acts against members of the minority Christian community. There have also been frequent attacks against the community by members of right-wing Hindu groups on the pretext of ‘forcible’ conversions.[x]



 



SOUTH ASIA



In spite of the effect of these provisions, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar have also enacted similar laws, with Nepal going so far as to include them in the recently adopted constitution. A similar proposal was introduced in Sri Lanka, but was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2004.[xi]



 



Nepal



Article 26 of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 (2072), protects freedom of religion, stating: ‘(1) Each person shall be free to profess, practice, and preserve his/her religion according to his/her faith.’



However, section 26(3) of the constitution states that ‘no person shall act or make others act in a manner which is contrary to public health, decency, and morality, or behave or act or make others act to disturb public law and order situation, or convert a person of one religion to another religion, or disturb the religion of other people. Such an act shall be punishable by law.’



The General Code in Chapter 19 which deals with Decency/Etiquette (‘Adal’) states in Number 1.512:



‘No one shall propagate any religion in such manner as to undermine the religion of other nor shall cause other to convert his or her religion. If a person attempts to do such act, the person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of Three years, and if a person has already caused the conversion of other’s religion, the person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of Six years, and if such person is a foreign national, he or she shall also be deported from Nepal after the service of punishment by him or her.’



 



Bhutan



The Constitution of Bhutan in Article 7:4 states: ‘A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. No person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement.’



In furtherance to this provision, in 2011, the legislature amended the Penal Code. The newly introduced Section 463 (A) states that: ‘A defendant shall be guilty of the offense of compelling others to belong to another faith if the defendant uses coercion or other forms of inducement to cause the conversion of a person from one religion or faith to another.’



Section 5 (g) of the Religious Organizations Act of 2007 also states that ‘no Religious organizations shall compel any person to belong to another faith, by providing reward or inducement for a person to belong to another faith.’



 



Myanmar



The unofficial translation by the Chin Human Rights Organization of the Religious Conversion Law states:



‘14. No one is allowed to apply for conversion to a new religion with the intent of insulting, degrading, destroying, or misusing any religion.



15. No one shall compel a person to change his/her religion through bonded debt, inducement, intimidation, undue influence, or pressure.’



The law also requires that the person wishing to convert should give the local authorities intimation of his/her conversion so that they can conduct an inquiry into it. The prospective converts would also be required to undertake special classes to understand the tenets of the religion.[xii]



 



Pakistan



While Pakistan does not have anti-conversion laws, laws pertaining to blasphemy have a very similar effect on persons converting to religions other than Islam.[xiii]



 



CONCLUSION



A detailed analysis of these laws reveals that, far from promoting or protecting religious freedom, they have served to undermine the religious freedom guarantees under the Indian constitution and international law and the covenants to which India is a signatory.



Primarily motivated by a religious ideology, the anti-conversions laws fail to achieve the very purpose for which they have been enacted. On the contrary, they provide an opportunity for divisive forces to target the constitutionally protected rights of minority groups and pose a serious threat to the free practice and propagation of religious beliefs.



Furthermore, the laws fail to account for the agency of converts and treat them instead as passive recipients of external (and seemingly unwanted) pressures from ‘predatory’ convertors. They tend to treat all religious conversions as suspect and liable to investigation and prosecution.



The introduction of similar provisions in the other South Asian legal systems is a disturbing trend and requires the attention of the international community, as they stand in direct contrast to the rights and liberties guaranteed under international law.



This unchecked spreading of anti-conversions laws will affect the safety and security of local Christians wherever it occurs, as has been in the case in India. 



Tehmina Arora is an advocate practicing in Delhi and serves as Senior Counsel, South Asia, for ADF International. This article is a revised version of her article that appeared in International Institute of Religious Freedom Report (Vol 1, No 2).



This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga.



 



Endnotes



 



[i] Data collated fromcowever, section 26(3) of the CC www.SpeakOutAgainstHate.Org













[vi] UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir : addendum : mission to India, 26 January 2009, A/HRC/10/8/Add.3, http://www.refworld.org/docid/498ae8032.html, accessed 12 April 2016.











[x] Taking note of this trend, in its 2011 report, the USCIRF noted that: ‘The harassment and violence against religious minorities appears to be more pronounced in states that have adopted “Freedom of Religion” Acts or are considering such laws.’ The report further stated that: ‘These laws have led to few arrests and reportedly no convictions.’ According to the US State Department, between June 2009 and December 2010, approximately 27 arrests were made in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, but resulted in no convictions.










 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - The Spread of Anti-conversion Laws from India
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

 
Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch

Author and international speaker Dr Pablo Martínez discusses the main challenges in Europe nowadays and hopes Evangelical Focus will be a useful tool to help build bridges between churches and society.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country ‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country

Bilbao hosted the Spanish Evangelical Alliance's annual meeting (assembly). Politicians, professors and evangelical representatives shared views on social reconciliation. The theme was also analysed from a theological perspective and in workshops. 

 
WPF17: A look at the world’s current issues WPF17: A look at the world’s current issues

A selection of pictures of World Press Photo 2017.

 
The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi spoke about how the biblical worldview shaped the West. 300 professionals attended annual GBG meeting on faith and work in Cullera (Spain). Photos: J.P. Serrano, S. Vera.

 
Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016 Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016

Around 1,000 young Christian leaders from 150 countries are participating in the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering, to reflect on global mission.

 
“Spain, we pray for you” “Spain, we pray for you”

Hundreds of evangelical Christians from many denominations marched in Madrid (Spain) to pray for their city, the authorities and asking God to bring hope to its society. Many gathered in other cities on June, 11.

 
VIDEO Video
 
“It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation” “It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation”

In creation care, “we need more people who lead by example”, says well-known Brazilian politician and activist Marina Silva. 

 
Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online

The new video of the European Freedom Network addresses the dangers of social media. 

 
“Remember you are dust” “Remember you are dust”

Vaughan Roberts speaks from 25 years of ministry experience to share four lessons on staying the course as a Christian, despite ongoing battles with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

 
Walk Walk

A two-minute video on the meaning of Jude 24.

 
Playmobil animation on Luther’s life Playmobil animation on Luther’s life

British video platform GoChatter uses 4,000 individual photos to create stop motion video on Martin Luther's life.

 
Individualism: from the Protestant Reformation to 21st century capitalism Individualism: from the Protestant Reformation to 21st century capitalism

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi on how the Protestant Reformation underlined individualism as a means to please God, and how secular Europe corrupted it.

 
Students in Europe: “We are present” Students in Europe: “We are present”

A summary video of the IFES Europe conference which brought together 1,700 students from many countries in Aschaffenburg (Germany) to reflect on God's mission in society.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.