Nepal is a parliamentary monarchy with the King as the head of state and a Prime Minister as the head of the government. Prior to the movement for democracy in early 2006, the country was officially a Hindu state, and the new constitution as of 2015 retains “secularism”, but places restrictions on freedom of religion or belief.

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Constitution and government

The 2007 interim constitution of Nepal, since the country became a parliamentary monarchy, held between the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2006 and the new constitution of 2015.  The interim constitution established Nepal as a secular state, but there was significant social and political debate about what that should mean or whether Nepal should revert to a “Hindu state”. In October 2014, the Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala’s, made a commitment that the new constitution would guarantee freedom of religion or belief.

The new constitution finally came into force in September 2015, establishing that Nepal will remain a secular state, despite significant pressure from Hindu nationalists to revert to a Hindu state. However the 2015 constitution also increases restrictions on “evangelistic” religious conversion. There were mixed messages about whether religious minorities, in particular Christians, were happy with the move, on the one hand welcoming the retention of secularism in order to ensure state neutrality, but on the other hand objecting that the ban on encouraging “religious conversion” was a restriction on specifically religious freedoms.

Education and children’s rights

Religious groups can establish and run their own schools. Apart from religious schools, the state does not make compulsory religious registration for religious organizations. The Department of Education prepares the curricula for registered religious schools. Some religious organizations have complained however, that registration is in practice required since it is necessary in order to gain land ownership.

Family, community and society

Just over 80% of the Nepalese population is identified as Hindu; the rest made up of Buddhists, Muslims, Kirant, Christians and non-religious. Those without any religious affiliation constitute just under 1% of the population.

Caste-based discrimination is criminalised in Nepal.

The killing of cows is banned throughout Nepal for all people, regardless of their beliefs. Those caught killing cows can be punished with 12-year prison sentence. In July 2013, six people were sentenced to six years imprisonment for eating cow meat.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of the press, opinion, and expression are guaranteed and direct censorship is explicitly outlawed. Nevertheless, in practice freedom of the press has not been consistently protected.