|Anti-Conversion Law in Gujarat Raises Concerns
07 May 2008
The Indian State of Gujarat implemented the Gujarat Religious Freedom Act (2003), with effect from April 1, 2008. According to the Act, religious conversions by “force”, “fraud” or “allurement” are punishable under law and those convicted could face up to 3 years of imprisonment.
Gujarat has been home to the persecution of minorities over the last few years and following the implementation of this law, Christians and missionaries in the state are concerned this law will encourage anti-Christian activists to submit false accusations of forced conversions against them, thus causing ill-repute, possible harassment and unfair imprisonment.
The rules of this anti-conversion law make it obligatory for a person seeking to convert someone from one religion to another to obtain prior permission of the district magistrate in order to avoid police action. They will be required to sign a detailed form providing personal information about the person he/she wishes to convert, whether the one to be converted is a minor, a member of Scheduled Caste (Dalit) or Tribe (aboriginal), his/her marital status, occupation and monthly income.
After getting converted, the person will have to obligatorily provide information within 10 days of the rites to the district magistrate, reason for conversion, the name of the priest who has carried out the ritual and full details of the persons who took part in the ceremony. The district magistrate in turn will have to send a quarterly report to the government listing the number of applications for prior permission, comparative statistics of the earlier quarter, reasons for granting or not granting permission, number of conversions and number of actions against offenders.
5 states in India have now implemented anti-conversion laws – Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh – while Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan have passed the law, but are yet to implement it.
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