The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on Tuesday called for the repeal of the anti-conversion laws enacted by various Indian states. “Repealing them is necessary to comply with international human rights law for the right to freedom of religion or belief and to help prevent the country’s religious freedom conditions from further deteriorating,” it said.
In its new report on India’s state-level anti-conversion laws, the USCIRF sought to show that they were inconsistent with international human rights law. “Common features of these (anti-conversion) laws include prohibitions on conversions, notifying the government of one’s intent to convert, and burden-shifting provisions that presume an individual accused of violating an anti-conversion law is guilty,” it said. “Each of these features violates rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
India is widely recognised for its contributions to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which it is also a signatory. India ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1979. The USCIRF report looks at the anti-conversion laws enacted by 12 Indian states: Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
It concludes that India’s state-level anti-conversion laws “violate international human rights law’s protections for the right to freedom of religion or belief”. “They (the anti-conversion laws) impermissibly limit and punish an individual’s right to convert and right to persuade or support another individual to convert voluntarily. The anti-conversion laws also worsen religious freedom conditions in India which, as USCIRF has reported, are already poor,” it says. “Such laws enable and embolden existing government harassment, vigilante violence, and discrimination against religious minorities, as well as crackdowns on civil society organisations.”