Anti-conversion law approved in India’s Uttar Pradesh
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of Uttar Pradesh has approved the “Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance.” The ordinance has the same legal effect as Freedom of Religion Acts, popularly referred to as anti-conversion laws, enforced in eight of India’s twenty-nine states.
On the 28th of November, the Uttar Pradesh State Cabinet approved a draft ordinance intended to curb forcible or dishonest religious conversions. With the Uttar Pradesh State Legislature not in session, the constitution gives the governor power to promulgate an ordinance which has the same effect as a law passed by the legislature. The ordinance is valid for six months and will need to be confirmed by the Uttar Pradesh State Legislature when it reconvenes.
According to the text of the ordinance, forceful religious conversions will be punished by a jail term of one to five years and a fine of 15,000 rupees (approximately $203 USD). However, forceful religious conversions of minors, women, or members of low caste communities will be punished by a jail term of three to 10 years and a fine of 25,000 rupees (approximately $339 USD).
Prior to the approval of the ordinance, Chief Minister Adityanath promoted the conspiratorial narrative of ‘love jihad’ in the media as a justification for the ordinance. According to this narrative, large numbers of Hindu women are being tricked into converting to Islam by Muslim men through marriage. The ordinance specifically designates marriages done for the purpose of religious conversion as illegal.
Historically, radical Hindu nationalists have used the spectre of mass religious conversions to Christianity as justification to pass similar laws limiting religious freedom. According to these nationalists, Indian Christians are converting poor Hindus to Christianity en masse by fraudulent means.
To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversion.