Nepal's proposed constitution, for which political parties were unable to proceed with since the country's secularization in 2008 until after the 2015 April and May earthquakes due to lasting disagreements, has caused one group to worry about its implications for religious freedom in the country.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a United Kingdom based organization, issued a critical statement regarding the proposed constitution's anti-conversion proposal on July 13.
The clause in question reads: "…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."
The CSW briefing said the wording indicates a serious curtailing of religious freedom for Nepalese citizens.
"This fails to allow choosing and changing one's faith to be seen as a positive individual choice or as a matter of individual rights, as required by the [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] CPA," read the statement.
The proposal, the CSW says, is also "inconsistent with the international human rights framework," according to Evangelical Focus.
"This endangers two internationally guaranteed fundamental rights of every individual: firstly the right to enjoy full freedom of expression, and secondly the right to follow a religion of his or her own choice and to manifest that religion in word and action," the CSW said.
The clause appears to have entered into constitutional consideration after a year's worth of "mass forced conversions" and subsequent calls from one of Nepal's political party's to include a anti-conversion provision in the new constitution. On July 3, the Constituent Assembly (CA) of Nepal agreed to the demands in an attempt to end the growing number of protests across the country.
The CSW was able to obtain a copy of Nepal's proposed constitution in its original language (Nepali), and has translated the document into English with the aid of three contacts.
The CSW is not the only group to have raised issue with the constitution's treatment of religious rights. Lokmani Dhakal, one of the four Christians in the country's 601 member Constituent Assembly, voiced his concerns over a conference early July, according to Evangelical Focus.
"Without freedom to speak about one's faith, what is the meaning of religious freedom?" he said before the audience.
As of 2011, over 80 percent of Nepali citizens are Hindu, with Buddhism and Islam following in second and third place, respectively.
Nepal's current Constituent Assembly was elected in 2013, with political parties hoping to finalize a constitution by mid-February 2015--an unsuccessful goal.
Nepali citizens have long clashed with the government over the country's need for a constitution. On Monday, police reported dozens injured after protests over the new constitution, according to The Associated Press.
Photo Credit: Christian Solidarity Worldwide via Evangelical Focus