Burma urged to scrap religious conversion law
13 June 2014 – More than 80 civil society organizations from 26 countries around the world have called on the government of Burma to scrap its proposed religious conversion law, published in state-run media last month.
A statement released yesterday by the group stressed that the legislation ‘would unlawfully restrict the right to freely choose a religion’ in the country.
“If adopted, this law would violate fundamental human rights and could lead to further violence against Muslims and other religious minorities in the country,” it added.
The law requires any person willing to convert from one religion to another to obtain an official permission from a board of township-level officials, which will determine her or his suitability for the change in belief.
Section 7 of the draft law indicates that the applicant will be interrogated by at least four members of the board and will be granted the new conversion certificate after successfully passing a series of other requirements.
It also sets out that the issuance of the certificate – the official recognition of the conversion – will be conducted in accordance with rules set out by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The statement also said that the applicant could, if found to be intent on ‘insulting or destroying a religion’, face a penalty of imprisonment up to two years.
It added: “Compelling an individual to convert to another religion through ‘undue influence or pressure’ could carry a one-year jail penalty.”
The statement was initiated by the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), and endorsed by other 11 Chin groups, including Chin Baptist Churches USA and the Global Chin Christian Fellowship.
CHRO’s Advocacy Director Rachel Fleming said: “This proposed law has been widely condemned by human rights activists in Burma and around the world. The government must pay attention and scrap it immediately, or it risks undermining the democratic reforms process.”
The Ministry of Religious Affairs was responsible for drafting the law under the direction of President Thein Sein and Thura Shwe Mann, Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament.
According to the statement, the Ministry has also been implicated in imposing restrictive and discriminatory measures on minority religions.#