Apostasy and blasphemy may seem to many like artifacts of history. But in dozens of countries around the world, laws against apostasy and blasphemy remain even today.
Earlier this month, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum said it was “deeply disturbed” that Sudan had sentenced a pregnant woman to death for apostasy, the act of abandoning one’s faith — including by converting to another religion. (The woman later gave birth in jail.) And in Pakistan, the country’s most popular TV station was the latest target in a rash of recent government accusations of blasphemy, defined as speech or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine.
A new Pew Research analysis finds that as of 2012, nearly a quarter of the world’s countries and territories (22%) had anti-blasphemy laws or policies, and one-in-ten (11%) had laws or policies penalizing apostasy. The legal punishments for such transgressions vary from fines to death.