Anti-conversion legislation enhanced in Indian state as new report condemns abuses of the laws
28 Jul 2006
The Madhya Pradesh government has strengthened the state anti-conversion legislation to force potential religious converts to give one monthâ€™s notice before conversion or face fines and imprisonment.
The amendment to the law stipulates that 'prospective converts' and religious priests must notify a district magistrate of the intent to change religion one month before a conversion 'ceremony'. According to reports, the law was passed without a debate, despite uproar from opposition Congress Party members.
The decision coincides with the release of the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Quarterly Report into violence against Christian in India. The report details examples of violence against Christian minorities in Indian states where anti-conversion legislation has been enacted and highlights the abuse of these laws to protect the perpetrators of this violence.
The report suggests that 'not only does anti-conversion legislation appear to create a hostile climate for minority religious activities, but there also remains a broader assumption across other states about the illegitimacy of religious proselytism'. The report also highlights the failure of the justice procedures in protecting Christians in some states, and the complicity or even involvement of police in some attacks.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'This report of anti-Christian violence implicates some authorities for failing to protect the rights of the Christian minority. Even the existence of anti-conversion legislation appears to give confidence to the perpetrators of violence against religious minorities. It is therefore deeply disturbing that the Madhya Pradesh state government has signalled its intent to continue obstructing the religious freedom of its citizens, in violation of international standards. We call on the government of India to intervene for the repeal of all state anti-conversion laws across the country.