The state assembly of Haryana, northern India, has passed a bill criminalizing religious conversions solicited through force, fraud, allurement or marriage.
The adoption of the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill (2022) means that the state becomes the tenth in India to pass such a law.
The bill prohibits “religious conversions which are effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offence.”
Conversions secured through allurement, use of force, coercion or fraudulent means carry a term of imprisonment of one to five years. When the intention is to convert a minor, a woman or a person belonging to the Scheduled Castes (those viewed as having the lowest status within the Hindu caste system), the offence is punishable with a minimum of four years, and a maximum of ten years.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, in defending the bill on March 22, said that any person could change religion voluntarily but that forcible conversion must be stopped at any cost.
However, AC Michael, convener of the United Christian Forum, commented, “None of these state governments [that have brought in anti-conversion legislation] have produced any believable data to establish that forced religious conversions were indeed taking place within their jurisdiction.”
Anti-conversion laws are an understandable response to a regrettable history of seeking converts through underhand means. Sadly such practices do continue. Yet the laws can also be misused by making false accusations against those simply sharing the Gospel, while also encouraging anti-Christian extremists within Indian society.