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New USCIRF Report: Anti-Conversion Laws on the Rise in South Asia
USCIRF Calls on U.S. to Press South Asian Governments to Rescind These Laws

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a special report on anti-conversion laws in South Asia. This report examines laws in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, that limit the ability of religious groups to proselytize and the freedom of individuals to convert to a different religion.

“Anti-conversion laws are frequently abused by extremists who seek to prevent anyone from leaving the majority religion,” said USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza. “These laws abrogate the religious freedom rights of minority communities, such as Hindus in Pakistan or Christians in Nepal, and as such they should be rescinded.”

The report finds numerous problems with these laws. For example, in India and Pakistan, vague and discriminatorily enforced anti-conversion and blasphemy laws have contributed to rising numbers of hate crimes and false accusations against members of minority religion groups. Also, despite persistent allegations of coerced conversions by international and domestic religious groups, supporters of these restrictive laws have not presented credible data supporting these claims.

“These laws are a major obstacle to efforts pursuing peace and tolerance among those of different faith as extremist and majority religious groups use these laws as tools to intimidate and prevent religious minorities from exercising their right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience,” added USCIRF Commissioner Tony Perkins. “These laws also disproportionately affect vulnerable and disfavored groups, such as Dalit Hindus and foreign humanitarian and aid workers.”