The 2007 interim constitution provides for religious freedom; however, it specifically prohibits proselytizing. It also declares the country a secular state. On May 27, the Constituent Assembly dissolved without drafting a new constitution.
The interim constitution maintains the stipulation from the 1990 constitution that no one shall be discriminated against based on caste. The 2011 Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Act criminalizes acts of caste-based discrimination in public and private spaces, including places of worship.
The National Dalit Commission (NDC), established by the government in 2002, protects and promotes Dalit rights, ensures active Dalit participation in the country’s development, and coordinates with local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in Dalit issues.
There are no specific laws favoring the Hindu majority, nor does the government control the expression of Hinduism. The law prohibits the killing or intended killing of cows. Penalties for violating this law include twelve years in prison. Non-Hindus viewed as discriminatory the legal prohibition on killing cows.
The law allows personal conversion to a different religion, but the interim constitution and criminal code prohibit proselytizing, which is punishable by fines, imprisonment, or, for foreigners, expulsion. NGOs or individuals may report individuals or organizations engaged in proselytism for the government to investigate, but none were reported during the year.
The government does not require mosques to register, but madrassahs seeking government funding must register with local district administration offices (part of the Home Ministry) and supply information about their funding sources. Some Muslim leaders criticized the policy as discriminatory, citing the difficulty of the registration process and the general lack of resources from the government. According to the Department of Education, approximately 835 madrassahs are legally registered with district education offices, an increase of 25 during the year. The government allocates to each registered madrassah 26,000 Nepali Rupees ($300) per year per teacher to cover teacher salaries. The Department of Education also prepares curricula for the registered madrassahs. Muslims may freely participate in the Hajj; the government does not subsidize the pilgrimage.
There are no restrictions on the sale or possession of religious literature.
The government observes the following Hindu holidays: Mahashivaratri, Falgun Purnima, Krishna Asthami, Dashain, Tihar, Maghi, Chhath, Janaipurnima, Gaura Parba, and Ramnahami. The government observes the following Buddhist holidays: Lhosar and Buddha Jayanti; the following Muslim holidays: Eid al-Fiter and Eid al-Adha; as well as Christmas and Ubhauli (a Kirat ethnic/religious festival the Rai and Limbu communities celebrate) as national holidays. The following official Hindu holidays are for women only: Haritalikajej, Rishipanchami, and Jitiya Parba for women celebrating the Jitiya Festival. Basanta Panchami is an official Hindu holiday for school children and Jatra is an official Hindu holiday in the Kathmandu Valley.