January 26, 2004
Nepal LGBT Group Supports UN pro-gay Resolution
"Nepal may join the ranks of those nations seized of human rights concerns and issues like gays’ rights. The United Nations in its 60th resolution is likely to offer a proposal on human rights and sexual orientation in March. If endorsed, it will safeguard gay rights and individuals’ choices concerning sexual orientation. Nepal will also be a voting member of the proposal, for which we intend to lobby with the foreign ministry and concerned organisations to vote for the proposal," said Sunil Babu Pant, director of Blue Diamond Society (BDS) in Kathmandu, an organisation working for the welfare of homosexuals.
According to him, there is no international convention on safeguarding sexual orientation, and endorsement of the proposal will be ground-breaking. Pant was speaking at an interaction programme on Sexual Health & Rights of Vulnerable Groups in Bangkok on Friday.
Homosexuals are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, mainly due to social stigma and lack of awareness, according to activists and gays. They are harassed by the police and not allowed to enter discotheques with condoms. "The security personnel outside discotheques snatch their condoms. Such negative behaviour increases the risk of HIV/AIDS for homosexuals since they end up having unsafe sex," said Pant. Discotheques and clubs are meeting points for homosexuals, he said, emphasizing, "Everyone has the right to safe sexual health."
Similarly, some gay couples disclosed that the Kathmandu police beat and harass homosexuals in drag if the latter carry condoms. This could be due to the pressure from the police on club owners, said Pant. However, harassment by the police has considerably decreased since last April due to intervention of high-ranking police officials, lawyers and the media reports, he said.
Roop Narayan Shrestha, lawyer for the Forum for Women, Law and Development said that although unnatural sex was punishable under the national law, the Nepali legal system had failed to qualify the term. Shrestha said that there was no law for the protection of homosexuals, adding that the FWLD is drafting a proposal for amendment in laws pertaining to commercial sex workers and gays."
From Blue Diamond Society,
Lazimpat-2, Shiv Bhakti Marg-344, Kathmandu, Nepal,
Tel:(+977 1) 4443350, Fax: (+977 1) 4438600
Web site: http://www.bds.org.np>www.bds.org.np
20 February 2004
The Kathmandu Statement on Sexual Orientation, Gender identity and Human Rights
A meeting of Nepalese lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, more than fifty participants representing 15 cities of Nepal, adopted the following statement in Kathmandu, Nepal, on February 19, 2004.
To Nepalese government of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and of the United Nations:
We write to you as a coalition of Nepalese lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. We represent diversity of cast, age group, gender identity, religion and so on in Nepal. We speak to you as fellow Nepalese, concerned that Nepal develop and realize its full potential, steady in hope for Nepali democracy, aware that repression and fear are inconsistent with peace and freedom, conscious that democracy and development can only be attained by mobilizing the energies of all Nepalese.
We say to you: We, Nepalese lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people, do exist. We are part of your country and constituencies. We are watching your deliberations from our home communities, which are also your home communities. We demand that our voices be heard.
We ask you to support a resolution before the Commission on sexual orientation, gender identity, and human rights.
Across Nepal, we face human rights abuses which threaten our safety, our livelihoods, and our lives. That we are targets of such abuse proves that we exist˜states do not persecute phantoms or ghosts. It also proves the necessity for action to safeguard our real situations and our basic rights.
Nepalese lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people confront harassment from police; abuse by our neighbors and our families; and violence and brutality˜sometimes punitive rape˜on the public places. We are discriminated against in the workplace. Many of our families force us into marriages against our will, in the hope of changing our inmost selves. Some of us, among them the very young, are evicted from our homes because of prejudice and fear.
We are denied access to health care and basic health information targeted to our lives and needs. National health program has done nothing for our communities. We are omitted from HIV prevention programs. The brave contributions we have made to HIV prevention and treatment˜doing outreach to our own communities and educating them in the face of state neglect ˜are ignored or actively harassed.
At the same time, we have and have always had a place in Nepal. Despite the pressure of prejudice legal attitude, many of our families do not succumb; many of our neighbors, co-workers, and friends continue to love and to support us. Many of our communities continue to affirm that we are an integral part of their web of relationships. Many traditional cultures still are governed by those principles of welcoming and belonging that have always been central to Nepalese life; they do not allow themselves to be distorted by the politics of exclusion, and preserve our rightful place in the gathering. Many Nepalese religious leaders from many denominations speak to us of love and inclusion, not hatred and revenge.
In supporting the UN 60th resolution on Human Rights and Sexual Orientation, gender identity, and human rights, you will be true to the real Nepalese tradition˜which, in culture after culture, recognized the interrelationship and interdependency of us all.
We urge you to support this resolution.
The latest injustice and violence against Homosexuals in Kathmandu
I am writing to express deep concern at the occurrence of violations of fundamental human rights in Nepal against non-heterosexual persons.
It has been 3 years since Blue Diamond Society started raising such issues whenever human rights violations against sexual minorities occur either from Government agencies or from society in general or individuals. Despite having several interactions with the Police and other related parties the situation has not improved: rather, it is getting worse. Please see the attached note on the latest incidents.
Sexual Minorities (Meti, Ta, Dohori, Singaru, Maruni, Strain, Kothi, Fulumulu, Lesbian women, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender men and women, Hijras and many more) in Nepal are extremely frustrated that despite our efforts to cooperate with different organizations including Police, Army and business owners, we are discriminated against on the basis of our sexual orientation or gender identity.
We are tortured and ill treated in Police custody. Many of us face violence in the community or family because of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Many Government officials, driven by prejudice, refuse to protect us. That’s why we find ourselves in the extremely difficult situation in our own country.
We believe that human rights cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and all people must enjoy all human rights equally.
So, we urge the Nepali Government, especially the Police, to take strong measures to stop human rights violations against us and to protect us from homophobic actions against sexual minorities in Nepal. We have already discussed this with you in the past. We are willing to discuss these issues again, but seek a firm commitment from you and your officers to comply with any agreements made. We look forward to the opportunity to make a real difference on improving human rights in Nepal. Let us work together to make this improvement a reality.
The latest injustice and violence against Homosexuals in Kathmandu Nepal–I wish to draw all of your attention to the situation of effeminate men and male sex workers in Kathmandu. The latest incidents indicate that the law enforcement agencies, including the police and army, enjoy impunity by targeting and oppressing anyone who expresses their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Yesterday, 28th April 2004, at 6:45PM in Pashupati Temple area, Amrit Adhikari, field staff of Blue Diamond Society, while doing his duty, which is educating men on HIV/AIDS, safe sex and distributing condoms was assaulted by a man known as ‘Haddi Kale’. Amrit was kicked on his back, punched on the face, his safe sex education kit bag was taken and all the condoms destroyed, then he was accused of damaging social morale by distributing condoms. ‘Haddi Kale’ accused Amrit of being a Hijra and spoiling society. Then ‘Haddi Kale’ took his money, NRs 1500, punched him again and forced him to leave the place saying that the stolen money would be enough for ‘Haddi kale’ for a week of drinks and sex.
The Pashupati Temple area security personnel didn’t do anything except were a silent spectator. No one tried to help Amrit or stop ‘Haddi Kale’s’ assault.
Next morning, 29th April 2004, Amrit approached me (Sunil Pant). I took him to the Gaushala Police Station, which is near Pashupati Temple, to file a case of assault. The Police didn’t register the application saying that it was more important to capture the perpetrator rather than registering the application. So two policemen, Amrit and myself went to Pashupati area to look for the ‘Haddi Kale’. The policemen pretended not to know him despite seeing him in the area. Amrit was so scared and thought if he identified ‘Haddi Kale’ in front of the police, ‘Haddi Kale’ might kill him in future. He suspected that he would not get any protection from the Police. Amrit either didn’t identify ‘Haddi Kale’ to the Police.
The fear psychosis that prevails in society is such that criminals can get away with assault and robbery because victims are too scared to identify their assaulters. The general public do not believe that the Police can offer appropriate protection if they identify criminals.
In another incident about a month ago, around 9.00PM in the evening in Kathmandu, Gopal, in cross dress, was walking from Bhadrakali to Sundhara. Two men followed him. The two men offered Gopal money to come with them and have sex with them. Gopal immediately felt something was wrong when the two mentioned they were from the Police. Gopal declined their proposal saying he was going to a disco. He started walking towards Jamal, but he was followed all the way to Jamal. Once Gopal saw other uniformed Valley policeman he clearly said he is not available but the two men started beating him up and took his money and ran away.
Gopal shouted for help, but the Valley police again didn’t give any help – another silent spectator. Their silence continued after the man who stole Gopal’s moneybag walked in front of the police after 20 minutes after hiding the bag. Gopal pointed out the men to the police saying that ‘they’re the men who took my bag earlier’. The men said, ‘Ho! Who is this Hijra, I don’t know him’, then he showed his id card saying he was police. The other police were in uniform and on duty and didn’t do anything to the accused except being silent spectators again.
On 25th April 2004, 3:00 am in the morning, Raju Ghale was returning home from a disco. He left a taxi at Chabahil and started walking towards Tinchuli. At Tinchuli 4 men attacked him from behind. His face was covered with a piece of cloth. One of the attackers put a knife to his neck threatening to kill him if made any noise or tried to escape. They made him walk about 15 minutes towards an isolated place and asked him to take off his all clothes.
Then they kicked him, punched him in the chest and stole his gold chain necklace, his gold earrings, and wristwatch. They then asked him if he recognized them, Raju said yes and they the attacked him by knife twice on his forehead. Raju started bleeding and fell on the floor. His assailants continued beating him until Raju lost his senses. After 3 hours Raju found himself lying in a field. He barely managed to walk home only to find his room was robbed as well. Later, some friends took him to the hospital.
Unfortunately, the cases mentioned here are not isolated incidents. They are indicative of a pattern that repeats itself everyday where the silence of the government and the impunity of the police and army violates the human rights to life, personal dignity, bodily integrity, and security of all persons who are sexual minorities and express their sexuality and gender identity. This impacts on their economic standing and also impedes their health, as intervention to prevent HIV/AIDS amongst them cannot take place in a positive and safe environment.
I urge every citizen of Nepal to hold the government responsible for its violation of basic human rights. In particular, I call on the government to respect sexual orientation of its citizens and not to discriminate against those who are non heterosexuals..
Sunil B Pant
Director, Blue Diamond Society
24 May 2004
Boy assaulted–Many Children are growing up under continuous harassments and assaults
I am writing this mail to inform you about the children, who are growing up under continwous harassments and assaults by the society and other state authorities.
Kumar Tamang, nick name Kumari, age about 15 years from Dolakha, Bhimshen who had been left to a Yogi in Pashupati by his parents when he was a little kid was harassed on Friday the 14th of May. He had gone to Durbar Marg area and was just minding his own business as usual. Around 9:00 am around 10 guys approached him for sex. He got scared and thought that they all might rape him.
When he refused to go with them, they got angry and started calling him names like ‘ Chakka and Hijaras’. They weren’t satisfied with just this; one of them grabbed a stone and smashed his head. He started bleeding profusely but no body was helping him, fortunately Kumari was brave enough to go to Bir Hospital and get his wound bandaged. His head is broken so badly that it may takes at least a month to recover and Blue Diamond Society assisting him to provide further medial support as required.
This wasn’t the first time Kumari had been harassed. He says that he gets verbal abuse wherever he goes, especially by police from Indrachowk. He’s also been imprisoned many times by police from Janasewa and Thamel on the false accusation of theft and calling him names like ‘Chakka and Hijara’. They have also shown their power by other means of harassment such as forcefully snatching his earrings right from his ears and cutting his hair, which he’d taken so long to grow.
This case mentioned here is notan isolated incident but is indicative of a pattern that repeats itself everyday where the impunity of the police violates the human rights to life, personal dignity, bodily integrity, and security of all persons who are perceived non heterosexual especially such children. This impacts on their mental, psychological and physical health as well as development.
Blue Diamond Society is very much concerned of such regular assault and torture against such effeminate people especially children and condemns the degrading action from the society and police who supposed to protect the citizens.
Blue Diamond Society calls for your support and solidarity to protect the human rights of all people including effeminate children.
Sunil B Pant, Director, May 21, 2004
28 July 2004
Nepal gay group threatened with closure
Ben Townley, Gay.com UK
An international human rights body has called on Nepal’s government to dismiss an attempt to shut down the country’s leading gay rights groups.
Human Rights Watch says the threatened closure of the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) would go against the right to freedom of association and _expression, and could harm LGBT people in Nepal who rely on the support network.
The BDS offers advice and information for LGBT people on HIV/AIDS and the right to the acceptance of a sexually diverse community.
It is also attempting to pressurise the government into decriminalising homosexuality. Although there is no law against homosexuality in the country, legislation banning "unnatural sex" is often used to arrest members of the LGBT community.
The group is facing a shut down after a private lawyer petitioned the country’s supreme court calling for the BDS to be banned. The lawyer said that because homosexuality was criminalised, the group should be closed.
“In trying to stifle the voices of sexual minorities, Nepal demonstrates its indifference to basic rights of _expression and assembly,” said Scott Long, Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“In trying to silence those who document police abuse, the Nepalese government shows its determination to punish the messenger.”
He added that attempts to shut the group and its HIV education wing down could "drive people at high risk even further underground, and only worsens the spread of the pandemic".
This is not the first time the BDS has faced controversy. Earlier this month organisers say they were attacked whilst conducting a peaceful march to the country’s Prime Minister.
The protestors were said to have been beaten by local police officers during the march. The government must now respond to the country’s supreme court within 35 days.
August 10, 2004
Members of Blue Diamond Society randomly arrested
Last night around 22:30 PM 39 members of Blue Diamond Society were randomly arrested and taken to Hanuman Dhoka Police Station, detention center in Kathmandu. They have been detained till now without food and have been subjected inhumane treatment. We here in the Blue Diamond Society are very concerned. They were arrested along with other people from different occupation and this goes against established international human rights laws. This also shows the carelessness and discriminatory attitude of the police. In addition to the unjustified arrests and detention, the brutal treatment of those arrested due to their sexual orientation is particulary disturbing.
Thus, we request His Majesty Government of Nepal to release our captured members without any conditions. Basically, Blue Diamond Society is involved in purely promoting human rights and HIV awareness among sexual minorities in Nepal without any causing harm to anyone, thus we request HMG of Nepal and the other related organizations not cause any harm which may effect our member’s basic human rights and not to repeat this kind of any activities in the future.
Sunil B Pant
Director Blue Diamond Society
August 16, 2004
Gays held for bad conduct, say police
Himalayan News Service Kathmandu
Senior Superintendent of Police at the Valley Police Office, Devilal Tamang, said the police department is not interested in hindering people’s movement, but it also cannot spare those indulging in illegal activities. "We respect homosexuals as citizens.
However, we arrested them as they were indulging in acts prevented by the law," he said. He was speaking at an interaction organised by the Blue Diamond Society (BDS). Deepak Ranjit, Superintendent of Police at the Kathmandu District Police Office, said the people were arrested because they were indulging in offensive acts. When asked why the arrested homosexuals have been holed up in a filthy place, he said police had no option but to lodge them in a cell that was immediately available.
Sapana Pradhan Malla, an advocate, meanwhile, said the arrests meant nothing but a way to harass minority communities. Meanwhile, a UN agency today expressed concern over the arrest of the homosexuals and urged the government to ensure other advocacy workers providing AIDS advice are able to work freely, AFP reported from Geneva.
August 24, 2004
Nepal Releases Jailed Gays
39 members of a gay civil rights organization have been released from a Nepal jail where they had been held since 9 August 2004. New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Monday that the men were released on bail Friday following an international outcry. The men are members of the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s only LGBT rights group. They were swept up in a series of raids on 9 August.
A senior police spokesperson said the men were indulging in illegal activities. The men’s only crime appears to be advocating civil rights for gays and educating the gay population in the tiny kingdom between China and India about AIDS. Human Rights Watch said that no trial date has been set and the specific charges appear vague. It said that it would continue to monitor the situation. At the time of the arrests Sapana Pradhan Malla, a spokesperson for Blue Diamond, said the roundup was meant to harass the gay community. The jail in which the gay men were held for more than two weeks is described by international groups as "deplorable" and "filthy" with little ventilation and no room to exercise.
Last month, police forcefully dispersed a crowd of gays who had marched on the Parliament building to deliver a petition for civil rights to the Prime Minister. The arrests also brought the condemnation of the United Nations AIDS organization UNAIDS. UNAIDS said it "fully supports" the work of the Blue Diamond Society, and conveyed its concern over the detentions to the Government of Nepal. The organization called on the authorities to allow Blue Diamond to continue to provide HIV services in an atmosphere free from fear and intimidation.
Theme: Surviving in culture
Come out in support for the Blue Diamond Society. Enjoy the musical band and costumes. Unwind with the New Road Show. Bring friends and families. Have Fun
When: 31st August 2004
Time: 12:00 noon to 2:00pm
Starting Point: Tridevi Marg (In front of Sanchaya Kosh Bldg.)
Concluding Point: Tridevi Marg
Events Include: Comedy Acts; Musical Hungama; Catwalk; Condom Promotion and Distribution; Distribution of HIV/AIDS/Safe Sex Leaflets, Rainbow Pride, Dragon Carnival
Higjlight: A candle light memorial at Hanuman Dhoka to those who passed away because of AIDS last year at 1:00 pm
Blue Diamond Society Questions? Call us: 4-443350, 4-445147, email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
This annual festival has become one of BDS premier events and draws crowds of local as well as tourists, to join in the fun and enjoyment of the festivities.
The festival of "Gai Jatra" is one of the oldest and most unusual of the many holidays celebrated by the Hindus of Kathmandu Valley. Some say the custom goes back more than a millennium, to the time of the Licchavi kings. Falling on the day after Janai Purnima, the full moon day of August, Gai Jatra is a day for remembering those who have died in the past year. In addition to praying for their departed loved ones, family and friends of the deceased commemorate them in great processions, which wind their way through the streets of the ancient Newar towns of Bhaktapur and Kathmandu.
Despite its associations with the dead, the festival procession is not a dour or solemn event. In fact, there is a great deal of merry-making connected with it. Many of the participants wear outlandish costumes. Traditionally, a good number of the young Newar men in the procession dress in women’s clothing. Over the centuries, the Gai Jatra Festival developed a second purpose. In the days when political ___expression of any kind was outlawed, Gai Jatra was the day when ordinary citizens could vent their frustrations through political and social satire, without fear of reprisal from the rulers.
Given this history, Gai Jatra seemed to be a ready-made occasion for the Blue Diamond Society, the Nepalese association for sexual minorities, to stage Nepal’s inaugural Pride march.
Singular Heroic Efforts to Gay Legacies (Essay on the abuse of gays in Nepal)
By Ulash Rana
How can a change come to our unfair system? A “singular heroic effort” may sound foolish when all odds are against you, but it is definitely a great act of bravery, which is always commendable, and if not immediately, there will surely and ultimately be many more closely behind you or besides you arm-in-arm to support your cause. And a cause never gets lost, because a good cause and a right cause always leaves behind a legacy that can never be forgotten. When a legacy is born, the cause may take time to be realized, but realized it will inevitably. And Blue Diamond Society is one such legacy that is the result of one “singular heroic effort” some 3 years back by the heroic Mr. Sunil Babu Pant that has in the years since culminated into a collective effort for the rights and privileges of Nepalese gay people.
Just recently the Spanish government approved a bill to legalize gay marriages, which immediately filled me with immense happiness for gay people there. Now matter where such positive reforms take place, it is only natural for a gay person of any nationality to be filled with hope and call for a resolution in his/her own country. The almost stagnant progress in our country in any section for reform, let alone the non-existent gay laws, means a call for a referendum. Then again, it sounds so alien and farfetched to the extent of ridiculousness.
Are we to be happy that there is no homosexual law in Nepal and that the Nepalese LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender) should be thankful that they have been favored by default? It is simply a case of “turning a blind eye” as is always to the labeled “minorities’, and in no way can such law substitute for the clear fundamental rights LGBT’s should be entitled to. But when some people who contribute to the media like Mr. Bashu Dev Phulara states such backward remarks as: “Any statements that purport to establish a homosexual lifestyle as an equally legitimate alternative lifestyle must be roundly condemned,” in his article “Should Homosexuality Be Legalized In Nepal?” (Sept.28, 2004: thenepaldigest.org) with even several more appalling and outrageous forceful opinions under baseless grounds, I, a gay citizen of Nepal, feel totally infuriated because he hasn’t understood what “being gay” really means, and when you don’t understand the very core of homosexuality, your statement is “baseless”.
So the focus turns back to the society we live in, with the focus being to change its premature stereotyped perception of the gay people. What message should be portrayed to the society in order to dismiss homosexuality as a sin or a perversion? People should understand that homosexuality cannot be corrected. It is not a choice. It is a part of your core being that you were born with.
But, is the society starting to become more accepting? At least the general Spaniards definitely seem so, because the opinion poll conducted in late July this year showed that some two-thirds of Spaniards are in favor of gay marriages despite the spokesman for Spain’s Episcopal Conference insisted, “It would impose on society a virus, something false, which will have negative consequences for social life.”
And changes seem to be already coming in a positive way at least amongst the younger generation everywhere, thanks to the media in which Hollywood plays a pivotal role in shedding positive light on the portrayal of homosexuals and individuals of different gender identity. Who can escape the awe-inspiring effect Hollywood has on us? My very own straight friends who viewed homosexuals with stereotyped misconceptions changed their views after watching the movie “Boys Don’t Cry”! Such liberal attitude Hollywood portrays has always helped people move in the forward direction.
There will always be the frowning Conservative Socialists, who value tradition above everything until one of their very own children turn out to be gay. But does accepting gay people really makes a person anti-traditionalist? I f so, has banishing slavery in the U.S. and all over the world really changed the core traditional values for the worst?
So hasn’t the time come to change the inflexible views of the society, the conformist nature of the so-called traditionalists, and the whole herd of the conformist society who are merely the victims of social conditioning?
When I asked a Nepalese gay friend of mine whether he visits gay bars (which by the way aren’t present per se anywhere in Nepal), he said, “ I don’t think I should be there.” Then, when should he be there without it having to be a singular heroic effort or a personal gay legacy?
October 30, 2004
Blue Diamond Society Receives Utopia Award in Bangkok for Humanitarian Work
UTOPIA AWARD RECIPIENTS ANNOUNCED
Awards to be Handed Out During 10th Anniversary Celebration on Nov 19 in Bangkok
The recipients of the 5th annual Utopia Awards, Asia’s leading gay human rights celebration, have been announced and will receive their awards at 8pm on Friday, 19 November at a festive celebration at Bangkok’s Roxy Bar & Club. The Utopia Awards are presented annually to individuals and organizations that have moved forward the cause of dignity and a better life for members of Asia’s gay, lesbian, bi and transgender communities.
Five pioneers have been selected for recognition in 2004 and will be attending the ceremony to accept their awards: Blue Diamond Society for its work to protect the health and human rights of Nepal’s sexual minorities.
Billy Wong for his work helping to establish the world’s largest network of gay Asian/non-Asian groups.
Pakorn Pimton for his AIDS work and founding of the Bangkok Gay Festival and Thailand’s first pride parade.
Poonsak Sanchan for his community building and founding of the Phuket Gay Festival and Parade.
Jim Lumsden for his charity efforts and founding of the Pattaya Gay Festival and Parade.
The 5th annual Utopia Awards are presented by Utopia, the first and largest gay Internet portal in Asia. Utopia will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary on the same evening. Time Out Guide Bangkok calls Utopia "the leading gateway to organizing a visit…" and TIME Magazine says Utopia is "a great resource for gay and lesbian travelers in Asia, dishing out the spice on even the most buttoned-up spots." The Awards celebration is open to the public.
Following is the full text of the 2004 Utopia Award citation to Blue Diamond Society:
Nepal’s first and only LGBT rights group, founded in 2001, Blue Diamond is a rapidly expanding community-based organization which works on HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy services for all sexual minorities in Nepal. It operates a drop-in centre, a free STD clinic and does outreach work, having already established informal networks in more than 15 cities throughout the country.
The 3rd of its annual pride parades was held in Katmandu in August 2004, and more than 50 Nepalese women have now joined its lesbian, bisexual and transgender support group set up over a year ago.
Blue Diamond is working in a country where sexual minorities face extortion, expulsion from family, rape, arbitrary detention, blackmail and murder.
Blue Diamond’s award will be accepted by its founder and driving force, Sunil Pant, who, soon after his return from study abroad, began work with destitute women in Nepal and soon recognised the unacknowledged needs of all sexual minorities in his country. Sunil has been tireless in focusing the world’s attention on violations of the human rights of these minorities — most recently the arbitrary arrest of 39 Blue Diamond members in August this year.
January 2, 2005
First gay weekly to be launched in Nepal
Nepal’s first gay weekly highlighting issues affecting the country’s burgeoning gay community will hit the stands in the third week of January. The eight-page Blue Diamond Weekly in English and Nepalese, funded by the British embassy, aims to sensitise locals about the gay community.
It is being launched by Blue Diamond Society, an NGO that was started in 2001 by Nepalese gay rights activist Sunil Pant to disseminate information about the risk of contracting HIV and AIDS through unprotected same gender sex and provide a voice to a community that alleges persecution by family members, employers and even police.
The Blue Diamond Society complains that its members are rounded up by police and beaten up. It is currently facing a case filed by a lawyer who wants the government to shut it down.
Nepalese lawyer Achyut Prasad Kharal last year filed a public interest petition in the Supreme Court against the government and the home ministry, accusing them of abetting immoral activities by permitting the society to function.
The suit is to be heard on Jan 18, just days before the first copies of the gay weekly roll out.
Sunil Pant admits the case will affect the society as well as the weekly. " Though the home ministry has asked the court to dismiss the case, once the court gives its verdict, there could be a crackdown on the society’s activities," he says. "But a weekly is the best way of reaching out to local people."
The weekly, which plans to have its own web site, would be distributed free among grass-roots organisations and schools.
" It is not going to be explicit or controversial," Pant says. "The issues are those that have been marginalised and need to be focused on like sexuality, minorities, HIV/AIDS and people living with AIDS, rights of all people, stigma and discrimination."
There would also be personal stories and an agony aunt column and some of the staple columns of non-specialised magazines like recipes, beauty tips and even how-to, like "how to remove pickle stains from your pants".
Last year, the Blue Diamond Society was honoured by a gay rights organisation in Thailand for its pioneering work in Nepal. Since then, the society has developed its ties with Thai activists and institutions.
January 24, 2005
Nepal tour operators woo gay visitors
In an effort to boost their sagging business, some enterprising tour operators in Nepal are courting visitors from the gay community. With tourism suffering due to the nine-year-old Maoist insurgency, some tour operators have started specialised services for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to enhance business by venturing off the beaten track.
Aasha Nepal is one such agency that caters to the gay community. It has services that range from providing gay guides and booking accommodation in gay-friendly hotels to providing information about gay bars and nightclubs and orientation about the social mores in Nepal. The agency was started by 35-year-old Bhismaji Pant in Thamel, the hub of western tourists in Kathmandu.
Though homosexuals form a considerable part of the country’s population, they started coming out of the closet in the male-dominated, traditional society only as recently as 2000, when the first public platform for the gay community, the Blue Diamond Society, made its appearance as a group registered with the government.
Aasha Nepal, currently constructing its website, is mentioned by leading gay portals in Asia and Europe, including Utopia, the Bangkok-based site that is the largest of its kind in South Asia. Bhismaji Pant said he got the idea during his two-year stint in Japan, where he worked with a travel agency, followed by a couple of years more in Bangkok. "In these countries I found gay clients making enquiries about gay-friendly services and guides and I realised we had no such agencies in Kathmandu,"
Pant told IANS. When he returned to Nepal and started his tour agency three years ago, he was looking for a unique selling point that would bring in additional business. Probably another deciding factor was his own brother Sunil, who founded the Blue Diamond Society and is spearheading the movement in Nepal to respect the rights of sexual minorities.
Aasha Nepal is the official tour agency of Blue Diamond Society with most of its gay clientele coming from Holland, New Zealand, Spain and Italy.
And now, a newly formed trekking agency, Himalayan Humanity Trekking, is following in Aasha Nepal’s footsteps. Arjun Chhatkuli, CEO of Himalayan Humanity, started out as a porter bearing the luggage of tourists during long treks. Together with American tourist Ben Ayers, Arjun started an organisation for humane and lawful treatment of porters and a library of clothing and equipment that would kit out porters on hire.
"An American tourist and her group donated several pieces of warm clothing and we became acquainted," said Chhatkuli. "I realised she and her group were lesbians who were smarting under the treatment meted out by the trekking agency they had hired when the men came to know about them. "She felt she was being treated with disrespect. That set me thinking. I thought everybody, irrespective of their sexual preferences, is entitled to basic human rights."
Chhatkuli’s fledgling organisation is also based in Thamel, which abounds with tour operators. "Some of them are curious why I have chosen to include special services for the gay community," said the 27-year-old. "But there’s no outright condemnation."
Aassha Nepal website: http://www.aashanepal.com.np/gpage1.html
March 16, 2005
Gay Rights in High Places
As the king fights a Maoist insurrection, the Nepali Supreme Court decides whether homosexual acts are "bestiality"
By Cristi Hegranes
A year ago, Meera, a 22-year-old woman from Hetauda, a district in southeast Nepal, was scheduled to be the bride in a marriage arranged by her family. When Meera refused to marry and attempted to run away with Laxmi, her lesbian partner of two years, Meera’s family caught her, poisoned her with herbs, and brought her back home.
On their second escape attempt, the couple made it to Katmandu and found shelter and protection at the Blue Diamond Society, the only organization in Nepal dedicated to the rights of sexual minorities.
But within weeks the girls’ families came looking for them. "It started with threatening phone calls," says Sunil Pant, director and founder of the society, with Meera sitting next to him, her eyes fixed to the floor, too shy to speak. Then, eight months ago, Meera and Laxmi were kidnapped from the Blue Diamond Society during the night. Midway through the seven-hour journey back to Hetauda, they asked for a bathroom break and took the opportunity to run away a third time. It took three days on foot, but they made it to Katmandu again.
One week later, the families pressed charges against the society, accusing Pant of trafficking the women. Charges were dropped after Meera and Laxmi explained their situation to what Pant calls "sympathetic" female law enforcement officials.
Today, Meera and Laxmi live together in Katmandu. But they still use the back roads, Pant says, because the two women continue to receive threats, primarily from Laxmi’s uncle and Meera’s brother, who only recently threatened to break her legs. They also receive threats by telephone at the Blue Diamond Society offices, where Meera is the receptionist.
Soon, Meera, Laxmi, and fellow gays and lesbians will find out whether the Blue Diamond Society can even operate within the traditional Hindu culture of Nepal.
When King Gyenendra dismantled democracy in Nepal last month to combat Maoist insurgents on his own, he also suspended civil liberties in the name of security. In the wake of the king’s action, as internal conflict in Nepal reaches a fever pitch, the fight between traditional Hindu culture and the emerging homosexual population of Nepal has also reached critical mass.
On Friday, the Supreme Court of Nepal will take the first step toward either legitimizing or criminalizing homosexuality, when it hears a petition that seeks to ban the Blue Diamond Society. Given the unstable state of Nepal’s government, the condition of the court system is also uncertain, but Sapana Malla, one of Nepal’s most well-known human rights attorneys, who is representing BDS at the Supreme Court, says, "The courts have been functioning."
The maltreatment of gays throughout Nepal has provoked anger and stern warnings from Amnesty International, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the British Embassy in Nepal. But Achyut Prasad Kharel, the law student who filed the petition seeking to outlaw the Blue Diamond Society, believes that the Nepalese Constitution clearly prohibits homosexuality, classifying it as "bestiality." His petition says that the Blue Diamond Society should be banned for "polluting the culture of Nepal." Kharel did not respond to numerous phone and e-mail interview requests.
Pant, the BDS director, is worried that the legality of homosexuality in Nepal hangs on the court’s definition of a single word. "The [Nepalese] Constitution says that unnatural sex acts are illegal," Pant explained in an August interview at the society’s offices in Katmandu. "But ‘unnatural’ is nowhere defined."
Pant says the Supreme Court has been "quite good recently," and he remains hopeful that the high court will rule in favor of his group, given the court’s record on other recent human rights cases, including the 2002 legalization of abortion and a 2004 case that allowed women to own property.
Malla, who was the primary attorney in both the abortion and property cases, is also optimistic. "It will be difficult because I don’t know how the court will respond to the homosexual issue," she says. "But I am hopeful, because everyone has right to live free and with dignity; I think the court has shown that."
Kharel, however, has a different definition of human rights. "Even though the homosexuals have termed the right to homosexuality as human rights, in reality homosexuality is not [a] human right," he wrote in his June 2004 petition to the court. He also claimed that no international human rights instrument has declared homosexuality as a human right with any "legal validity."
False, says Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. In June 1994, she notes, the case of Nicholas Toonen, a member of the Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group in Australia, led the United Nations Committee on Human Rights to define discrimination based on sexual preference a violation of human rights.
When he founded the Blue Diamond Society in 2001, Pant thought gays in Nepal would be as rare as blue diamonds. Since then, the organization’s Web site says, thousands of gays have contacted the organization, which has become increasingly public in both its outreach programs, specifically with HIV/AIDS awareness, and its soliciting of assistance from international organizations. Simultaneously, however, intolerance of the gay community has increased within the general Nepalese culture — which is widely characterized by low literacy and excruciating poverty — and local law enforcement. "We are also seeing an escalation in police violence against people affiliated with the Blue Diamond Society," Ettelbrick says.
On Aug. 9, 2004, for example, 39 members of the society were arrested on public nuisance charges. The men, who were jailed for 15 days, suffered from beatings, denial of food and visitors, and miserable living conditions, such as being housed in the toilet rooms of the detention centers. According to Pant, who was allowed access to the prisoners, at least one man was severely beaten and eight others suffered from fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Malla confirmed the conditions. "I visited a space that was 6 square feet, and there were five men in that space. There was one open window in the cell, and it had rained all night. They were soaking," she says.
In an August interview at Hanuman Dhoka Jail, Ganesh K.C., the deputy superintendent of police in Katmandu, denied that anyone was beaten or refused medical treatment. "There is no one here with any wound or disease," he said. All allegations of inhumane treatment are false, he said, adding that police reports indicated that all 39 men were arrested in a massage parlor in the Thamel district of Katmandu for engaging in "public sexual displays and disrupting people."
But Malla, who represented the men, says, "They were arrested in different places."
Prisoner Suraj Shah issued a statement via the Blue Diamond Society describing how he was taken out of his home by police at gunpoint. Shah says he was directed to take police to homes of other metis, or male cross-dressers, who were also allegedly taken at gunpoint.
K.C. said police plan to continue to crack down on "gay locations" in Katmandu, a city of nearly 900,000, adding that he believes there to be "as many as 70" gay men in the city, the approximate number of members of the Blue Diamond Society.
Both Malla and Pant know that Friday’s hearing is crucial for BDS and its members. "If we get a positive judgment, it will mean the court recognizes the existence of these people as human beings who are legal in the eyes of the court," Malla said.
A ruling against the Blue Diamond Society could mean that the court will send legislation to the king requesting the explicit criminalization of homosexuality.
In Nepal, it is not just the fate of sexual minorities that is uncertain. The country’s political fate is also on a perilous limb. Much of the western part of Nepal is under Maoist control; Maoist insurgents set up parallel government operations years ago, complete with their own tax collecting agency, police department, and justice system.
Many democratic leaders are still under house arrest. The court system is one of the few reminders that until five weeks ago, Nepal was attempting to forge a multiparty democracy. Pant is uncertain of the Maoists’ stance on homosexuality. "We have no idea," he said. "They have never said anything publicly or directly to us." As the king and the Maoists prepare for what could be a long and devastating civil war, Pant is determined to stay the course. "We will not allow this prejudice to stop us," he said. "We refuse to go underground."
14 April 2005
Brutal Start to Nepali New Year as Police Beat Metis
by Sunil Pant
Many people may be lucky to celebrate the Nepali New Year, but some are not privileged enough even to be wished a Happy New Year. Last night, New Year’s Eve, turned to be sorrowful start of year 2062 for Nepalese Metis (effeminate males).
After Blue Diamond Society’s small New Year’s Eve gathering, about 18 metis left for the festival for New Year in Thamel. About 11 PM, 13th April 2005, metis were walking towards Thamel along Kantipath, near to the Royal Palace. While the metis were passing the Jiyoti Bhawan Building in Kantipath, they saw two other metis, Roshani and Faridha, being beaten by police.
They noticed that a police van parked nearby was from Durbar Marg Police Station.
Once the police saw more metis across the street, the police ran after the larger group and started beating by batons, gun butts and sticks. Alex (Julie) was threatened by the police at gunpoint and then beaten in the stomach with a gun butt. After he fell down, the police kicked. Jorha was beaten on her hand with a stick – her palm is broken and her arm is bruised and lacerated. After she also fell down, the police kicked her all over her body. Kamala and Suntali were also beaten with sticks and kicked on their legs. Suraj was also beaten. Out of a group of 18, nine metis were severely beaten.
Inspector Prem Malla, in command of the Durbar Marg police station, was seen ordering his policemen to torture metis and enjoying the scene from inside the police van, it is claimed.
As it was a Thamel festival, many people were moving towards Thamel but nobody else was attacked except the metis. After the police were satisfied with their brutality they left the metis in the street.
The metis gathered again and considered reporting the incident to the police. Even though they had little faith in the police, they decided to go to the Durbar Marg police station and report the case.
But on arrival, they were not allowed to enter. After waiting an hour, the metis wrote down the details of the incident and left for a Bir Hospital where they received medical treatment for their injuries.
The metis said that they were treated well by the hospital staff Bir Hospital treated the Metis nicely and given the report.
Blue Diamond Society calls for world-wide support and solidarity to protect the human rights of metis and other sexual minorities. The group calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into these unprovoked assaults by police officers who are supposed to protect the citizens of the country must not be able to commit such acts with impunity from the law they are here to uphold.
18 April 2005
Nepali Police Attack Transgender People–Pattern of Police Abuse Highlights Broader Threat to Civil Society
GENEVA, April 19 (Human Rights Watch) – Police in Kathmandu attacked a group of transgender people on Wednesday, underscoring the vulnerability of all Nepalese to police abuse since King Gyanendra seized direct power in February and suspended most civil liberties, Human Rights Watch said today.
On April 13—the Nepalese New Year’s Eve—police attacked 18 metis (a traditional term for biological males who dress and identify as women) who were walking toward a festival in Kathmandu. Nine were severely beaten with batons, gun butts, and sticks.
“ This attack is only the latest of a string of police assaults in Nepal against transgender people,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “In a country where political and civil rights have been suspended, the violence sends a message that no one who looks or acts differently can feel safe.”
Officers from the Durbar Marg police station attacked the metis at about 11 p.m., as they walked along the Kantipath road of Kathmandu. One of the victims was reportedly threatened at gunpoint, beaten in the stomach with the butt of a gun, and kicked repeatedly. Another suffered a broken hand. The inspector of the Durbar Marg station reportedly watched the beatings from inside a nearby police van. The Durbar Marg police station is directly outside the gates of the Royal Palace, an area heavily surrounded by armed police and military.
The metis attempted to report the incident at the station, but police refused them entry. They went to the Bir Hospital, where their injuries were treated and recorded.
The Blue Diamond Society, a Nepalese nongovernmental organization defending sexual rights and sexual health, has documented numerous such incidents. For instance, on the night of December 12, 15 policemen in the Jamal district of Kathmandu attacked two metis on the street. The assailants wore civilian clothes but reportedly showed police IDs. They took the victims to Tundhikel, a large open field in central Kathmandu, threatened them with guns, and beat and raped them.
On August 9, 39 metis who were members of the Blue Diamond Society were picked up in police raids in Kathmandu. They were held for more than two weeks in the Hanuman Dhoka police station, and denied adequate food or visitation rights. Several were beaten and raped.
The Blue Diamond Society’s very existence has been under attack since last year. On July 5, police dispersed a rally which the Society had organized to protest violence, beating several of the protesters. A week later, Justice Ram Prasad of Nepal’s Supreme Court acted on a petition received from a private lawyer, asking to ban the Blue Diamond Society on the grounds that it violated the prohibition of “unnatural sex” in Nepal’s criminal code.
Under international pressure, the Ministry of Home Affairs in August told the court it would not support banning the Blue Diamond Society, on the grounds that “there is no specific law to take action against homosexuals” in Nepal. However, the court case remains open. Hearings on January 18 and March 18 were inconclusive; a new hearing is scheduled for May 10.
“ The attempt to shut down the Blue Diamond Society was an early warning of the pattern that is now evident – to effect a comprehensive crackdown on civil society in Nepal,” said Long. “The government must restore civil liberties and respect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression and association.”
May 27, 2005
Thousands attend Nepal pro-democracy rally
By Gopal Sharma, Kathmandu
Thousands of pro-democracy activists marched through the streets of the Nepali capital on Friday to press King Gyanendra to restore democracy and civil liberties in the Himalayan kingdom.
About 5,000 supporters of seven mainstream parties, many punching their fists in the air, attended the second biggest rally in a week against the monarch, who seized power on Feb. 1 after saying parties had failed to control the Maoist conflict.
Organizers said ordinary people had been caught up in the brutal fighting between rebels and security forces and violence had continued unabated since the king’s power seizure.
In the latest incident of violence, three police officers and a guerrilla were killed on Friday when a dozen rebels, armed with automatic weapons, fired at a security patrol in the western town of Bhairahawa, 300 km (190 miles) west of Kathmandu.
" Our struggle is to free the people from this conflict, restore democracy and peace," Girija Prasad Koirala, chief of the Nepali Congress party, the biggest of the seven groups, told the first political public meeting since February.
The leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), Jhal Nath Khanal, said the struggle would continue until the king restored democracy.
Khanal said the seven parties wanted the restoration of the parliament to solve the political crisis and were ready to hold elections to a constituent assembly to end the Maoist revolt.
The Maoists want a constituent assembly to prepare a new constitution to decide the role of the king. The demand for the constituent assembly was the sticking point in talks with Maoists in 2001 and 2003. " If parliament is restored we are ready to go for the constituent assembly (as demanded by the Maoists) to solve the conflict," Khanal said.
Dozens of riot police watched the rally but did not intervene. Earlier, the royalist government ordered troops on alert fearing infiltration of Maoist rebels into anti-monarchy rallies. The home ministry also warned the seven parties to take precautions during their demonstrations, saying security forces were on full alert for any possible outbreak of violence.
The Maoists, who have been fighting since 1996 to overthrow the Hindu monarchy and set up a single party communist republic, have been known to plant bombs in public places in the past.
Gyanendra said his move, which also included detention of political leaders and suspension of civil liberties, was required to fight the Maoist insurgency in which 12,000 people have died. But the political parties, some of whose leaders are still in jails, condemned the move as unconstitutional and are demanding the restoration of parliament dissolved in 2002 and an all party government, a demand Gyanendra has refused.
October 5, 2005
Gay Metis Are Released, But With Conditions
The five Metis who were arrested on Sunday in the Nepali capitol were released yesterday, the gay rights group Blue Diamond Society has said. But the five had to sign an undertaking, prepared by the Hanuman Dhoka police, saying that they “would not promote prostitution and they would not pollute the society again”.
The metis were also told that if they were seen again at night walking the streets of Kathmandu, they would be prosecuted.
One of the Metis, Neema Lams, has denied police reports that she was asked to pay a fine of 1000 Rs on the night of October 2 when the police arrest her. Before taking them to the Hanuman Dhoka police station, police asked for 110 Rs from the Metis for medical check up at Bir Hospital. The police are supposed to pay this fee, BDS says.
The metis denied paying any money to the Police. They claimed that they were verbally abused. “ We would like to thank all the international organizations, friends, media and relatives for their quick support at this difficult time,” the BDS said in a statement.
October 5, 2005
Elton John donates to Nepal Blue Diamond Society
Sir Elton John has donated money to Nepal’s only gay rights group, as a gesture of goodwill intended to help the LGBT community and to fight HIV/AIDS in the Asian country.The openly gay rock star has reportedly given around £25,000 (approximately $44,000) to the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), according to Agence France-Presse.
The BDS has seen a rise in its profile in recent months after it warned the international community about attacks on LGBT residents in Nepal. Additionally, it faced the threat of closure after an opponent complained it was "promoting" homosexuality and should be shut down.
The money from Sir Elton comes as the group warns of more arrests and torture of transgender people in Nepal. Last week, it issued a call for action after revealing that 5 "metis" were arrested by police. Some of the transgender women were dragged into police vans by their hair, according to BDS reports, and there were fears that they could be tortured or sexually abused when under police custody.The arrest is the latest in a line of violent clashes with police and local authorities that have seen parades or demonstrations crushed with force.
Sir Elton’s donation comes after he recently pledged more support for international victims of homophobia. In an article written for The Observer this summer, the singing star said the government — and the British people — need to "shine a light" on the issue of homophobia in many countries.
" I want our government, which has presided over many positive changes for gay people here in the U.K., to ensure that ending violations of gay people’s fundamental human rights around the world becomes an explicit issue in its diplomatic relations with other countries."
He also called for more public protest about the treatment of lesbian and gay people in Africa, Asia and South America.
" The sheer force of our numbers will ultimately help those who are suffering from extreme poverty and extreme prejudice all over the world," he wrote.