Religion and Human Rights

Location

University of Dayton

Start Date

10-2-2015 4:00 PM

End Date

10-2-2015 5:30 PM

Abstract

In early 2015 several Hindu nationalist leaders India have called for a national law against forcible or induced conversion. Laws against “forcible conversion” have been proposed and enacted an increasing number of Indian states in recent years. Some laws include higher penalties for conversions of lower castes or women, reinforcing paternalistic assumptions that they lack the agency or ability to determine their own religion. Based on their timing, anti-conversion laws seem to be politically motivated, used to rally the Hindu majority during elections by playing on fears of their declining numbers and potential threats of mass conversions. Both proponents and critics of these laws make religious freedom arguments.

India’s 1950 constitution, still in effect today, emerged from heated debates in the Constituent Assembly (1946-1950) about conversion rights and religious freedoms, against the backdrop of the developing Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite India’s substantial constitutional protections for religious freedoms and longstanding commitment to religious pluralism, recent UN rapporteurs on religious freedom have critiqued state-level laws restricting conversions and periodic persecution of religious minorities. It may be an easier political project to protect the rights of discrete minority groups (difficult as this sometimes is) than to protect the rights of people to change groups.

Scholars have increasingly recognized that religions and religious communities are dynamic rather than static; yet religious rights frameworks seem to prioritize preservation rather than change. Some advocates of religious freedom privilege the maintenance of religious traditions and communities. This emphasis can make conversion a threat to freedom rather than central to freedom.

Comments

This biennial conference provides a unique space for scholars, practitioners and advocates to engage in collaboration, dialogue and critical analysis of human rights advocacy — locally and globally. Learn more about the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton >>>.

 
Oct 2nd, 4:00 PM Oct 2nd, 5:30 PM

Religious Freedom and the Right to Convert: Laws against Forcible or Induced Conversion in India (abstract)

University of Dayton

In early 2015 several Hindu nationalist leaders India have called for a national law against forcible or induced conversion. Laws against “forcible conversion” have been proposed and enacted an increasing number of Indian states in recent years. Some laws include higher penalties for conversions of lower castes or women, reinforcing paternalistic assumptions that they lack the agency or ability to determine their own religion. Based on their timing, anti-conversion laws seem to be politically motivated, used to rally the Hindu majority during elections by playing on fears of their declining numbers and potential threats of mass conversions. Both proponents and critics of these laws make religious freedom arguments.

India’s 1950 constitution, still in effect today, emerged from heated debates in the Constituent Assembly (1946-1950) about conversion rights and religious freedoms, against the backdrop of the developing Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite India’s substantial constitutional protections for religious freedoms and longstanding commitment to religious pluralism, recent UN rapporteurs on religious freedom have critiqued state-level laws restricting conversions and periodic persecution of religious minorities. It may be an easier political project to protect the rights of discrete minority groups (difficult as this sometimes is) than to protect the rights of people to change groups.

Scholars have increasingly recognized that religions and religious communities are dynamic rather than static; yet religious rights frameworks seem to prioritize preservation rather than change. Some advocates of religious freedom privilege the maintenance of religious traditions and communities. This emphasis can make conversion a threat to freedom rather than central to freedom.