Alarming Instances of Harassment Against Nepal’s Gender Minorities

Letter to Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Prime Minister of Nepal – Kathmandu, Nepal

Honourable Prime Minister,
We are writing this letter, as the leadership of the International AIDS Society, to express our deep concern in relation to the alarming instances of harassment that sexual and gender minorities, and the organizations that champion their cause in Nepal, are experiencing.

We appreciate the progressive stance taken by Nepal in recognising the need for the establishment of anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) persons to live with dignity and respect. We also recognise that the Government of Nepal has developed a three-year human rights work plan for 2011-2014, which includes a human rights programme designed to increase public awareness and acceptance of LGBTI people through public
seminars around the country. It is in this context that we find particularly disturbing the targeting by Nepali government officials of sexual and gender minorities and the organizations that defend their rights.

Laws have a vital role in protecting and sustaining the welfare of people belonging to sexual and gender minorities. They protect them and the wider population from suffering and becoming susceptible to diseases such as HIV. However, the legal system can also fuel the HIV epidemic by the brutal enforcement of punitive and discriminatory laws against sexual minorities, further pushing them to the margins of society, sacrificing their dignity and rights, and making them more vulnerable to the HIV epidemic.

Globally, the scientific evidence clearly shows that when political, legal and social barriers to addressing the epidemic are overcome, the progress in controlling HIV is swifter and more sustainable. No nation can have an effective HIV programming if the key affected populations and organizations that champion their causes are disrespected and persecuted. They are the very people a country needs to trust and depend on to overcome HIV.

The Blue Diamond Society (BDS) is a key defender of human rights for sexual minorities in Nepal and we are deeply concerned by the recent arrests and harassment of their staff and volunteers. We are disturbed that in spite of the fact that Blue Diamond Society has submitted all of the papers that are required for renewal, the concerned Government officials have been delaying the renewal of BDS’s license to operate in the country.

This unwarranted delay is resulting in the interruption of vital HIV services including care, support and treatment for people living with HIV and HIV prevention services.

We appeal to you to take urgent corrective steps to ensure that Government officials are held accountable to their responsibility to uphold the human rights of all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Nepal. They should also support the government in achieving the goals of its HIV programme by stopping harassment of BDS and other organizations that serve key affected populations.

On behalf of the International AIDS Society, the world’s foremost association of HIV professionals, with more than 16,000 members in 196 countries, we hope that Nepal, thanks to inspired and people oriented leaders like you, will contribute decisively in overcoming HIV.

Yours sincerely,
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi Bertrand Audoin
President, Executive Director,
International AIDS Society International Aids Society
(Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine 2008)

Source – International AIDS Society, Geneva, Switzerland