The situation for Christians in Nepal has “worsened” since a new criminal code came into effect earlier this year, writes human rights activist Prakash Khadka for the Catholic news site UCAN.

Nepal only became a secular country in 2007. Until that time it had been a Hindu monarchy for centuries and “respect for the Hindu monarchy still runs deep in the country”, Khadka says, referring to how institutions in the public sector still organise Hindu ceremonies and celebrate Hindu festivals as part of their daily responsibilities.

It is “the duty of all Hindus regardless of class or caste to protect their religion and culture from generation to generation amid growing secularism”, he says, adding that “there has been a backlash against Christians, with over a dozen recorded cases of persecution against their communities this year”.

“This trend worsened after the new criminal code took effect in August 2018. Even though it includes more provisions against discrimination, it’s anything but progressive in terms of respecting people’s freedom of religion,” Khadka says.

The new law includes an “anti-conversion” measure – “no person shall convert anyone from one religion to another or make attempt to or abet such conversion” – and provides for punishment of up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to 50,000 rupees (US$430).

Just last week an Australian woman was deported after she was accused of trying to convert people to Christianity.

Katie Rachel Graham from Sydney was arrested three weeks earlier in a small town near the border with India, where she was allegedly involved in door-to-door evangelising.

Graham was with four other women, two of whom are Japanese. Residents followed and filmed them and then filed a report with police, accusing them of proselytising, as World Watch Monitor reported.

In July a Christian couple were also deported following similar accusations, while in May several churches were attacked.

Nepal, where Christians are thought to account for around 4 per cent of the population, is 25th on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.