KATHMANDU, Nepal — Converting to another religion is now a crime in Nepal, thanks to a bill signed into law Oct. 16 by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari.
The signing comes two months after lawmakers passed legislation for the criminal code bill, according to The Christian Post. At the time, it was reported that religious conversion could earn a sentence of up to five years in prison and that “hurting of religious sentiment” could earn up to two years’ jail time. Religious freedom advocates say the law resembles the controversial blasphemy laws of Pakistan, which have frequently been abused.
Churches and charitable organizations fear how this law might limit their future activity.
“We are deeply saddened that this bill is now law,” said Pastor Tanka Subedi, the founding member and chair of Dharmik Chautari Nepal and Religious Liberty Forum Nepal. “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.” (TAB)