Anti-conversion Bill to be presented in House
The UPFA sponsored Freedom of Religion Bill, widely known as the “Anti Conversion Bill” that was gazetted on June 27, will be taken up in Parliament shortly.

The Bill which asserts to protect the Freedom of Religion enjoyed by the people of Sri Lanka from time immemorial and encourages mutual cordiality between peoples of all religions, prohibits unethical conversions by way of compulsion, coercion from one religion to another.

Converting unethically, subjecting a person refusing to convert to a punishment, accosting people with a view to converting and holding funds for such activities are prohibited and will be made offences. Attempting or abetting to do the abovementioned is also made offences by the Bill.
Proceedings under this Bill could be instituted by a Police officer on a complaint by an aggrieved person or an authorised person and with leave of court by such aggrieved person who has reason to believe that the Act has been violated.

A person convicted for the offences after a summary trial before a Magistrate is liable to imprisonment up to five years and to a fine up to Rs. 100,000 and where it is committed against a minor, the offender is liable to a term up to seven years and to a fine up to Rs. 500,000.

Where the offence is committed in a school, an institution of higher education, place under the control of armed forces or Police, a refugee camp or transit centre, a hostel, a hospital, a home for children, elders, sick or the disabled, such fact is deemed by the Bill to be an aggravating circumstance which shall be taken into consideration when imposing the penalty.

If the offence is committed by a body of persons all members of the body are deemed to be guilty unless they are able to prove that it was committed without their knowledge.

If a foreigner is found guilty of such offence, a Deportation Order could be issued against him and he could be declared a “prohibited visitor”. The Bill was presented to Parliament by Buddhasasana Minister, Ratnasiri Wickramanayake last year in an attempt to pre-empt the Bill Against Forcible Conversion presented by the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU).

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