12 January 2006
Nepal: Police on ‘Sexual Cleansing’ Drive
A string of police attacks on transgender people reflects the vulnerability of Nepalis in a climate of violence where civil liberties remain restricted, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter." to Nepalese authorities. "Police in Kathmandu are violently attacking and even sexually abusing transgender people to clear the streets of people they deem immoral," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Nepali human rights groups are calling this crackdown ‘sexual cleansing.’ This amoral campaign has to stop."
In the latest reported incident, on January 3 at about 10 p.m., three metis were walking in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. A local slang term for transgender people, a meti is a man by birth who identifies as a woman. Four uniformed police from Durbar Marg police station reportedly saw them and shouted, "Metis! Kill them!"
One meti was beaten with a baton on her back; one policeman pulled his gun and pointed it at her, threatening that "These hijras pollute the society and must be cleaned out" ("Hijra" is a common term for a transgender person). The two other metis were also beaten severely. All three reportedly have bruises on various parts of their bodies.
The Blue Diamond Society, a Nepalese nongovernmental organization defending sexual rights and sexual health, has documented numerous such incidents. On December 31 at about 11 p.m., also in Kathmandu’s Thamel district, a meti was detained by police from Shore Khutte police station. One policeman beat her with a bamboo baton, calling her derogatory names. She escaped, but her right hand is reportedly swollen and badly bruised.
On December 28 at about 1:30 a.m., a meti called Sahiba was arrested in the Thamel district. She was taken to the Shore Khutte police station. There police verbally abused her and commanded her to strip. When she refused, they stripped her forcibly of her clothes and checked her genitals while mocking her. They threatened to cut her hair off as punishment for wearing women’s clothes. She was released the next day.
In yet another incident, early on the morning of December 7, police from the Shore Khutte station raided a hotel in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. The raid was reportedly in retaliation against the hotel for refusing to provide a room free of charge for four policemen to have sexual relations with two metis. During the raid, 11 metis were arrested. Eight were held without charge for five days, then released; the other three were held for an addition day.
" The police are using brutal harassment and detention without charge to clear transgender people off the streets," Long said. "These attacks reflect a law enforcement system that is unchecked and operating outside the law."
The Blue Diamond Society’s very existence has been under attack since 2004 by a lawsuit before Nepal’s Supreme Court which would ban it on the grounds that it is "advocating homosexual rights." Such an action would violate basic freedoms of expression and association. Hearings before the Supreme Court have been deferred six times, most recently on November 11, 2005.
Civil society organizations in Nepal have faced mounting harassment and restrictions since last February when King Gyanendra dismissed the government, assumed direct power and suspended many civil liberties in the country.
January 13, 2006
Nepal transsexual ‘abuse’ concern
A leading human rights group has written to Nepal’s government voicing concern over what it calls continuing police abuse of transsexuals.
Human Rights Watch says there has been a pattern of arbitrary arrests and violence against "Metis", who identify themselves as women.The organisation has called for a full investigations of such abuse and appropriate punishments.Police in Nepal say they are taking the allegations very seriously. However, the head of a human rights cell in the police said many of the Metis were working as prostitutes and that as this was illegal in Nepal, raids on hotels were "permissible".
The BBC’s Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says Metis are a common sight in the city’s streets late at night. Human Rights Watch said that in the past few weeks, Metis had been detained without warrants, badly beaten, burned with cigarettes, forced to strip and even had guns pointed at them. Similar allegations – sometimes with photographic evidence – are regularly made by the Blue Diamond Society, a charity working among Nepal’s transsexuals.
The officer said the police were in dialogue with Blue Diamond on how to train the Metis in other job skills. Blue Diamond is the subject of a lawsuit by a conservative lawyer who wants it closed down. However, the government has said there are no legal grounds for doing so.
Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/4610772.stm
January 16, 2006
Human Rights Watch petitions Nepal on transgender rights
by Christopher Curtis
Summary: Human Rights Watch petitioned the government of Nepal, demanding an end to the police brutality aimed at its LGBT community
Human Rights Watch has sent a letter Thursday to the government of Nepal, demanding an end to the police brutality aimed at its transgender and homosexual communities.
On Jan. 3 four uniformed policemen in Kathmandu saw three transgender women and shouted, "Metis! Kill them!" ("Meti" is a slang term for a man by birth who identifies as a woman.)
One victim was beaten with a baton on her back. Another policeman pointed his gun at her, saying, "These hijras pollute the society and must be cleaned out" ("Hijra" is a common term for a transgender person). All three have bruises over their bodies.
On Dec. 31 police detained another transsexual, beat her with a bamboo baton while insulting her. She escaped with her right hand swollen and badly bruised.
On Dec. 28 police took a transgender woman into custody and forcibly stripped her of her clothes, while checking her genitals and mocking her. They threatened to cut off her hair for wearing women’s clothes. She was released the next day.
On Dec. 7 police raided a hotel and arrested 11 transgender women, holding them eight without charges for five days. The other three were held for an additional day.
These events have been reported by the Blue Diamond Society, a Nepalese nongovernmental organization defending sexual rights and sexual health. But the society’s very existence has been under attack since 2004 by a lawsuit before Nepal’s high court, which would ban it on the grounds that it is "advocating homosexual rights."
Noting these violent developments, Human Rights Watch said in a letter it was "gravely concerned by a continuing pattern of arbitrary arrest and police violence against metis."
The letter added, "We urge you to intervene to ensure that allegations of police abuse are fully investigated; that any persons presently in detention be swiftly released; that persons found responsible for abuse are punished; and that police and other criminal-justice officials are trained in respect for all people’s human rights, including the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."
The letter was sent Thursday to Kamal Thapa, the minister of Home Affairs.
Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, explained to the PlanetOut Network why Nepal’s government might enact changes based on his letter. " The government has an awful human rights record across the board because of its civil war, but because of that they are also sensitive, especially to donor countries like Germany and others in the European Union," Long said.
Long noted that 39 transgender people were recently released from detention and weeks of food deprivation because of international pressure. " I don’t know if the letter is going to work," Long admitted. "But the best we can do is let them know we’re watching."
March 17, 2006
‘Sexual Cleansing’ Continues in Nepal, 26 New Arrests
The Nepalese government’s violent campaign of "sexual cleansing" directed at the country’s metis, or transgendered, as well as gay people, continues unabated, Human Rights Watch reported today. HRW said in a statement today: "On the night of March 14, the eve of the Holi festival (festival of colors) – a major Hindu religious holiday – police in the Thamel and Durbar Marg areas of Kathmandu rounded up 26 metis," said HRW in a statement. "According to the Blue Diamond Society, a Nepali non-governmental organization (NGO) working in the fields of sexual rights, sexual health and HIV prevention, they were taken to the Hanuman Dhoka central police station in Kathmandu.
Five were later moved to Kalimati police station. Human Rights Watch understands that as of March 16, they have still not been permitted to speak to a lawyer. All have reportedly been charged with committing a ‘public nuisance.’ No further particulars of their alleged offence are known."
“ This is the latest incident in a violent police campaign to ‘cleanse’ Kathmandu of those considered undesirable,” said
Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Police regularly assault and in some cases sexually abuse transgender people, all in the name of enforcing ‘moral values.’”
Those arrested included two staff, two outreach workers, and two peer educators working for the Blue Diamond Society.
The Blue Diamond Society has repeatedly documented police abuse of transgender people, also known as hijras. In other recent incidents, on January 3, three metis walking in the Thamel district were reportedly severely beaten by four uniformed policemen who shouted, “Metis! Kill them!”
The police threatened that “these hijras pollute the society and must be cleaned out.” On December 28, police arrested a meti, took her to the Shore Khutte police station, and forcibly stripped and mocked her while checking her genitals. They also allegedly threatened to cut her hair off as punishment for wearing women’s clothes. She was released the next day. For more information the Nepalese "sexual cleansing" campaign,"out the Blue Diamond Society website.
Posted by Doug Ireland at 12:49 AM
April 19, 2006
Nepal’s gay community joins anti-king protests
Kathmandu – With the protests against King Gyanendra’s absolute reign snowballing in Nepal, the kingdom’s homosexual community has pledged solidarity with the protesters.
Blue Diamond Society, the only gay rights organisation in the country, said it was joining the "historic democratic movement" for ousting the "autocratic" government of Gyanendra.
As the anti-king demonstrations and a nationwide shutdown called to force the monarch to relinquish power entered the 14th day on Wednesday, homosexuals and trans-genders as well as office bearers of Blue Diamond Society here donned black arm bands to protest against the "black reign of the king".
Sunil Babu Panta, president of the NGO, said it had donated Nepali Rs 10,000 ($138.5) to the public fund set up though voluntary donations to treat protesters injured during demonstrations. The tiny lesbian cell in the organisation, Mitini Nepal, too said it was donating Nepali Rs 5,000.
Panta said the gay community would take part in the march called for Thursday by major opposition parties.
Nepal’s gay community, already under repression from a patriarchal society, has been facing greater jeopardy since last year, when Gyanendra seized power with the help of the army and added political turmoil to the nearly decade-old Maoist insurgency.
With security forces having been given greater authority, homosexuals have been at the mercy of assaults, arbitrary arrests and molestation inside police stations.
As the kingdom’s rights activists grapple with mounting human rights abuses inflicted on suspected Maoists and opposition party activists, the plight of homosexual detainees is being virtually ignored.
In a bid to keep NGOs under control, the government has come out with a stringent code of conduct for them, clipping their freedom and funding.
May 17, 2006
HIV hospice for gay and transgender men offers hope
Kathmandu – There’s no signboard outside the simple white-washed building at the end of the road – and neighbours have little idea of who its occupants are. But in this traditional Hindu society, where open discussion about HIV/AIDS remains largely taboo, that’s not surprising.
Behind the well-trimmed lawn and flower beds of the two-story building lies Nepal’s only hospice dedicated to caring for men who have sex with men (MSM) infected with HIV/AIDS, a particularly marginalised group in this impoverished nation of 28 million.
Funded by the Elton John Foundation and French NGO Sidaction, the hospice, located in a working class residential district of the capital Kathmandu, provides one of the few rays of hope for MSM members living with AIDS.
"I thought my life was over and even tried to commit suicide," Devya Gurang, a 24-year-old transgender person from the western city of Pokhara, said, recalling in vivid detail when she learned that she was infected with the virus.
Working the brothel circuit in the Indian film capital of Mumbai and popular for her effeminate features, she once serviced up to 25 men a day, and conceded to having unprotected sex on more than one occasion. Not knowing what to do, and with little money, she returned to Nepal only to find a less than hospitable welcome.
"People looked down upon me as a transgender person … Life was and continues to be terribly difficult," Devya maintained. "Nobody will give me a job and the fact that I am HIV positive only makes things worse."
A resident of the hospice since it first opened its doors over a year ago, she now looks upon it as her home, where she assists other transgender or gay men living with the virus.
Ramnath Shah, another caretaker at the hospice from Saptari district, close to the Indian border, agrees. "Life was unbearable for me there," he said, referring to his staunchly conservative village. "People didn’t accept me," he explained, recalling how he too found sanctuary at the Kathmandu hospice, where residents receive room and board, along with literacy training and counselling, as well as antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and periodic group meetings to provide psychological support.
For the past five months, Devya has been receiving a daily dosage of ARVs, including Nevirapine and Duovir, drugs that otherwise would have been out of reach to her financially, while a doctor comes by once a week to check on her and other residents’ progress.
"I still have recurrent bouts of diarrhoea and am not feeling very good – but at least now I have a chance to get better," she said.
Others, however, are doing less well. Chinak Tharu, 34, another resident from the midwestern district of Rupandhi and now physically disabled, laments he is paying the ultimate price for having unprotected sex. "I’m feeling better now. Before this I could barely walk," the five-month hospice resident said.
The brainchild of Sunil Pant, the Director of Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society (BDS), the hospice, already operating on meagre resources, can mean the difference between life and death for some.
"The situation is particularly poor given the double stigmatisation of being gay and HIV positive in Nepal," the NGO director said, explaining how some people had actually been driven out of their homes by their families and communities. "The general understanding of HIV is that people have been infected by taking part in immoral or dirty behaviour," he said.
According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 70,000 people between the ages of 15 and 49 currently living with the virus in the Himalayan kingdom – with most people not even knowing if they are infected. But Nepal’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is considered to be "concentrated" in nature, meaning a prevalence rate of less than 1 percent, concentrated among specific vulnerable groups such as injecting drug users, commercial sex workers (CSW) and their clients, as well as members of the MSM community.
"These are the groups that have shown high-risk behaviour and that’s usually where a general epidemic will begin," Aurorita Mendoza, Country Coordinator for the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), warned.
But while it is difficult to estimate how many HIV cases have actually been registered within Nepal’s largely underground MSM community, it’s clear more needs to be in terms of public awareness. There has yet to be any comprehensive study of the group, with many people remaining reluctant to divulge their HIV status, the UNAIDS official said.
11 June 2006
Nepal’s Parliament Strips King of Last Powers
by Patricia Nunan
New Delhi – Nepal’s parliament has stripped the king of his power over the legislature – effectively leaving the monarchy with little more than a ceremonial role. The move comes weeks after King Gyanendra was forced to give up absolute power in the face of massive anti-government protests. Lawmakers passed the motion late Saturday to strip Nepal’s king of his right to veto laws – one of the last remaining powers vested in the monarchy. Parliament can now also formally criticize members of the royal family, and choose the successor to King Gyanendra, who has sat on the throne since 1998.
Last month, parliament removed the king as head of the 90,000 member Armed Forces, removed his legal immunity and his freedom from paying taxes. These steps by lawmakers effectively make Nepal’s king a figurehead – just two months after he was forced to give up absolute power and restore parliament in the face of weeks of violent anti-government rallies. The king took over the government in February 2005 – on the grounds Nepal’s political parties were fractured and inept at dealing with 10-year Maoist insurgency. Backed by the Armed Forces, King Gyanendra imprisoned opposition politicians and activists, and severely restricted press and civil liberties. Despite being effectively stripped of his power, some say King Gyanendra and the monarchy are not finished in politics.
Rhoderick Chalmers is an analyst with the conflict resolution organization, the International Crisis Group. "I believe there is already underway a rearguard action by the palace, by the people who depend on the palace, the powerful feudal elites in the country who retain all sorts of leverage behind the scenes. And I think it would be very naïve if we imagine that the king’s surrender … means the end of the game for them." Parliament is expected to organize an election for a new Constituent Assembly. Legislators have promised that through that new body, Nepalese voters will ultimately determine the fate of the country’s monarchy and the role it should play, or whether it should be scrapped altogether.
No date for that election has been set. King Gyanendra is the latest monarch in the Shah dynasty, which has controlled the Nepalese throne since 1768. His predecessor, King Birendra instituted a series of democratic reforms in 1990, but he retained control over the Armed Forces, and the power to dissolve parliament.
25 August 2006
First public gay wedding in Nepal
Kathmandu – Anil Mahaju and Diya Kashyap met about a year ago, were attracted towards each other and, after going steady for some time, decided to tie the knot.
The wedding will be solemnised at a little party in Kathmandu on Saturday attended by friends and well-wishers – but no relatives.
Anil and Diya are not their real names but the names they have chosen for their future life together. Both the groom and "bride" are men and the wedding will be the first public gay marriage in Nepal where homosexuality is a crime, punishable with a year in prison and a fine.
"I am really excited and happy that they have dared to challenge (traditional) culture and family values, where the whole society is oriented towards heterosexual marriage," says Sunil Pant, president of Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s most prominent gay rights organisation that is offering its premises for the wedding.
"It is very courageous of them and I congratulate them."
As part of a gay rights organisation, Pant knows better than most the perils homosexuals face in Nepal’s conservative, patriarchal society.
Blue Diamond Society has to routinely bail out gays and transgenders arrested by police on weekends, beaten up, detained without trial and even sexually assaulted inside police stations.
Blue Diamond Society had also informed human rights organisations about the murder of a teenager in southern Nepal, allegedly by his father, after his family discovered he was gay.
August 24, 2006
Gays Want Voice in Nepal’s New Constitution
When the Maoist guerrillas and the government begin discussion Friday with the committee framing a new constitution for the country, Nepal’s gay community wants a voice in the new charter of rights.
Metis, males who see themselves as feminine, mardanas, females who see themselves as masculine, samalingis, homosexuals and lesbians, transgenders and other sexual minorities in the Himalayan state—where homosexuality is a punishable offence—are demanding changes in laws that discrimination against them, and representation in the elections that the government has promised to hold by next year to allow people to choose between monarchy and a republican form of government.
The Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s most visible organization fighting for the rights of gays, lesbians and transgenders, its sister organization for lesbians, Mitini Nepal, and Shakti Samuha, an NGO for former victims of trafficking, are pressing for changes in the criminal laws formulated nearly five decades ago that declare “unnatural sex” to be a criminal act punishable with one year in prison and a fine ranging from NRS 500-5000…
26 August 2006
Score’s attend first gay marriage in tradition-bound Nepal
Cheered by scores of wedding guests, two gay men exchanged garlands of marigold today in the first public same-sex marriage in tradition-bound Nepali society.
The guests, mostly activists from gay and lesbian rights groups and a few relatives applauded as Anil Mahaju, 25, and Diya Kashyap, 21, exchanged vows in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
The marriage, however, will not receive official approval, as Nepalese laws do not recognise same-sex unions, said Suni Pant, who heads the Blue Diamond Society, a non-government organisation.
There was no Hindu priest present to conduct the marriage.
“They have decided to get the marriage registered but I think they will have to wait for a new constitution that would legitimise same sex marriages,” Pant said.
Rights groups are hoping a new constitution, currently being prepared by experts, would provide Nepal’s gay and lesbian community with their civic rights.
Although there are no official figures, Pant said there were around 20,000 gay men and 1,000 lesbians in Nepal – a country with a population of around 25 million – where homosexual sex is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison under public offence laws.
14 September 2006
Nepal government begins crackdown (again) on gays
by Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu – Nepal’s vulnerable gay community, who had taken part in the popular protests against King Gyanendra’s regime, are now being targeted by the new ‘democratic’ government they supported to power, a gay rights organisation said.
The new government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, that was sworn in May and pledged to uphold democracy and human rights, has now started a cleansing drive against homosexuals in the capital, arbitrarily arresting them, detaining them illegally and beating them up in police lock-ups, according to the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s most prominent gay rights organisation.
Sunil Pant, president of Blue Diamond Society, says the new drive against metis – homosexual men who dress up as women – began about a month ago.
Metis are being prevented from moving around in the capital, especially in the Thamel area, that is the capital’s tourist hub and a prime destination for male prostitutes.
Last month, three metis were arrested from the Thamel area because they were carrying condoms. This month, five more were arrested from a dance bar in another area of the capital.
‘Most of the new arrests are of metis from the terai plains bordering India, who are the most marginalised and vulnerable,’ says Pant. ‘They have low literacy levels, no money and almost no professional skills.’
The five men approached the owner of the Blue Bar Dance Restaurant in Chhabahil Chowk for jobs as dancers. Pant says while the owner refused to pay them any wage, he told them they could work there if they were satisfied with the tips paid by customers. However, their performance was broken up by police who asked the owner to close the restaurant and warned him not to allow metis to work here in future.
‘They can’t move around, they are not allowed to earn a living in the only way they can. Then what are they to do?’ Pant asks.
Even as the Koirala government is urging the Maoist guerrillas to disclose the whereabouts of people abducted by them, Pant says police arrest metis arbitrarily, force them into signing confessions that they were having sex in public place, and hold them incommunicado for long periods.
Two metis from the Terai plains, Radheshyam Chaudhari and Chiranjivi Sunwar, went missing Saturday. Their friends came to know they had been arrested only after police produced them in the chief district officer’s court Wednesday, after detaining them illegally for four days.
Both men are said to have been roughed up by police, who claim they were trying to escape.
Ironically, the police drive against metis from the terai plains comes at a time Nepal’s politicians are demanding the uplift of the plains people bordering India, including giving them citizenship and adequate representation in government jobs as well as security forces.
In Nepal’s conservative society, where the son is valued much more than the daughter, homosexuals are regarded as freaks and homosexuality is a punishable offence. The gay community has been urging the new government to end homophobic laws and incorporate gay rights in the new constitution that is to be implemented soon.
Recently, the community celebrated the kingdom’s first gay public wedding, supported by the Blue Diamond Society.
18 October 2006
Gay rights fight in Nepal–Gay rights in Nepal may become isolated as talks between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA – government) and the Maoists in Nepal continue, a local LGBT group has warned.
The Blue Diamond Society has expressed concern that gay rights will be forgotten while the country discusses more controversial issues of the future of the monarchy and arms management. The interim constitution has not been endorsed and the date for constitutional assembly has also been lingering with the dispute between the SPA and Maoists.
With this political vacuum, in recent days the law and order situation has become one of the worst after the historic people’s democratic movement in April 2006, leaving campaigners wondering whether the protests were worth it. The groups claims that Nepal Police seem to have nothing better to do except chasing after the most poor and marginalized sections of society like Metis (transgender) and sex workers, raiding night clubs, hotels and streets around Thamel, Kathmandu, and arresting and taking advantage of transgender and sex workers.
Last night three Metis, and few days ago about a dozen sex workers from the highways, were reportedly arrested by the Nepal Police. Looting, kidnapping, murder cases are said to be rampant. Common Nepalis are feeling insecure as the police are not doing much to make the security situation better. A Blue Diamond Society spokesman said: “Many of us, including homosexuals and transgender, who came out on the streets to protest against autocracy and fought for democracy, are now asking ourselves: is this the mandate we gave to our leaders to manage democracy?”
Sexual identity is complex in Nepal. There are Metis, men who see themselves as feminine, Mardanas, women who see themselves as masculine, as well as gay men and lesbians and Tesrolingis (transsexuals). The group is demanding recognition of same-sex partnerships and property rights for transsexuals. They also want changes to identity cards so that transgender people can be identified as a separate category.
The King has promised to hold free elections next year, and the Nepalese will be given a chance to choose between a monarchy or democracy. Gay rights groups intend to stand in those elections, joined the opposition to the king, after he sacked the government last year, thus plunging the South Asian country into turmoil. Protesters, including homosexuals and transgenders, put on black arm bands to campaign for the monarch to relinquish his power.
The group’s president, Sunil Babu Panta announced they had donated Nepali Rs 10,000 ($138) to support injured protesters and were happy to join the “historic democratic movement" for ousting the "autocratic" government of Gyanendra NGOs such as the Blue Diamond Groups have previously had restricted funding and freedom from the government. King Gyanendra dismissed the Nepalese government in February 2005 claiming they were not doing enough to end Maoist communist rebellions.
It is as yet unclear if any of the demands of the Nepalese gay, lesbian and transgender people will be granted in the new constitution.