Minority News – Nepal Fails to Allow the right to select Religion


Nepal
Nepal

Nepal’s first democratic election was held in 2008, after a bloody civil war led by Maoist guerrillas overthrew the Hindu monarchy. But seven years later, Nepal is yet to complete its transition to a secular democracy by declaring its new constitution. Nepal is a country dominated by Hindus and Buddhists, therefore minorities are under constant threat from extremists, mostly supported by fundamentalists from neighboring countries.

According to the 2011 census,

  1. 81.3% of the Nepalese population was Hindu
  2. 9.0% was Buddhist
  3. 4.4% was Muslim
  4. 3.0% was Kiratist(indigenous ethnic religion)
  5. 1.42% was Christian
  6. 0.9% follow other religions or no religion

According to the 2001 census

  1. 80.62 percent of Nepalese were Hindu
  2. 10.74 percent Buddhist
  3. 4.20 percent Muslim
  4. 3.60 percent Kirant(an indigenous religion)
  5. 0.45 percent Christian
  6. 0.4 percent were classified as other groups
Article 31(3) states that “any act to convert another person from one religion to another, or any act or behavior to undermine or jeopardize the religion of another [will be] punishable by law”. Attempting to convert someone to another religion is already prohibited in Nepal, but the proposed amendments would mean that anything perceived as “evangelistic” could be punishable by law. The amendment is as follows:-
“No one shall behave, act or undertake activities that breach public order or break public peace/peace in the community; and no one shall attempt to change or convert someone from one religion to another, or disturb/jeopardize the religion of others, and such acts/activities shall be punishable by law.”
In a country where 80 per cent of the population is Hindu, the hammer is likely to fall hardest on minorities, including Christians, who comprise between 1.5 and 3 per cent of the population. This clause fails to allow for choosing and changing one’s faith to be seen as a positive individual choice or as a matter of individual rights, as required by international treaties which Nepal has signed and ratified
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