January 15, 2007 – queerty.com
South African Homo-Politico Helps Nepalese Nancies…Lauds Constitutional Change, Peace, Flowers and All That Jazz
A few weeks back we reported on the plight of Nepal’s hapless homos. Though they worked with Maoist revolutionaries to take down the despotic government, they’ve since found themselves on the receiving end of so-called "social cleansing". The nation’s only pro-gay rights organization, The Blue Diamond Society, has been fighting the good fight alone. Until now. January 8th marked a turning point in their battle against oppression. Gathering at the Malla Hotel for the “Nepal’s New Constitution and the Fundamental Rights of Minorities” conference, BDS and their allies lent their ears to the honorable Justice Edwin Cameron: South Africa’s first openly gay judicial leader and a key player in implementing the African nation’s same-sex nups.
Speaking to allies and enemies alike, Cameron lauded the importance of an inclusive, even-minded constitution: the key to implementing more national harmony. UK Gay News reports: Justice Cameron came to the conference with a bundle of encouragement and optimism, insisting on the immutability of human and sexual diversity, and entreating his listeners to see that diversity as celebratory. He contended that the admittance of gays and lesbians is the ultimate measure of a society’s capacity to view humanity in its fullness and of its commitment to equality, justice, secularism, and humane co-existence.
…A constitution, he argued, should surpass any sectarian or majoritarian interest, embrace difference in its conception of equality, and guarantee every individual the freedom, protection and resources to develop in his/her own unique manner.
Apparently Cameron’s words struck such a persuasive chord that Nepal’s Justice Laxmi Prasad Aryal – a man who has never come out to support LGBT rights – conceded that embracing the gays may be a good move for the country. Of course, Aryal’s but one man in a country where the Maoists have pledged to eradicate all "social pollutants", including the gays. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala simply pretends the problems don’t exist. Sounds like the kids have their work cut out for them.
January 17, 2007 – iglhrc.org
Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s only LGBT Organization, Receives International Recognition for their LGBT Human Rights Work
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Hossein Alizadeh 212-430-6016 email@example.com
New York, NY – The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) proudly announced today the selection of the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) as the recipient of its internationally recognized Felipa de Souza Award. BDS is a community-based organization working for sexual minorities in Nepal. The 2007 Felipa Award will be presented to Sunil Pant, the Founder and Director of BDS, at two awards ceremonies to be held on May 1, 2007 in New York and on May 3, 2007 in San Francisco.
Since 1994, the Felipa Award has acknowledged the courage and impact of grassroots groups and leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other individuals stigmatized and abused because of their sexuality or HIV status. “Blue Diamond Society is one of the most effective human rights groups in the world. What Sunil and other members have been able to do in such a short time to build visibility and effective action around LGBT issues in Nepal and international renown among their global peers is nothing short of astounding,” said Paula Ettelbrick, the Executive Director of IGLHRC. “It is truly our honor to continue to work with them and to honor all they have done to promote human rights for everyone, everywhere – not just in Nepal.”
The Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal’s only organization for sexual minorities, was founded in 2001 in an effort to address the needs of sexual minorities. In June 2004, in response to increasing incidents of police brutality against LGBT people, BDS organized the first public demonstration to support human rights for sexual minorities. Two months later, in another incident, Nepalese police arrested and jailed 39 LGBT activists. Immediately afterward, BDS spearheaded a national and international campaign to secure the release of the detainees.
BDS’ mission is to create an acceptance of sexual minorities in the society, reduce stigma and discrimination of sexual minorities, reduce high-risk sexual behaviors and increase Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) service utilization among sexual minorities for prevention of STI/HIV infection in Nepal, and to provide care and support for those sexual minorities who are HIV positive.
In the past few years, BDS has played an active role in Nepal’s politics by supporting the pro-democracy movement in the country. Since the gay community was systematically targeted and oppressed under the absolute reign of King Gyanendra, BDS joined other Nepalese people in opposing his regime. Following the King’s agreement to hand over power to the Nepalese people in April 2006, BDS has been working with the new government to include sexual minorities’ basic human rights and protections in the new constitution. In January 2007, Blue Diamond Society organized a forum on “Nepal’s New Constitution and the Rights of Minorities” where Lena Sundh, Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Justice Edwin Cameron, Supreme Court of Appeal, South Africa shared their thoughts and experiences with Nepalese legal and political experts.
“[Receiving] this [award] is such a great honor for Blue Diamond Society, all the Nepalese LGBTs and our families and friends who have been supporting of us,” said Sunil Pant, director of the Blue Diamond Society in Kathmandu, Nepal. “This award means increased visibility of the Nepalese LGBT community and empowering us in a crucial moment for the country as well as for the LGBT community itself.”
Nominations for the Felipa Award are solicited each year from activists around the world. Nominees go through a rigorous review by the staff, board and the International Advisory Committee of IGLHRC. The Award embodies the spirit and story of Felipa de Souza, who endured persecution and brutality after proudly declaring her intimacy with a woman during a 16th Century inquisition trial in Brazil. The Felipa Award carries with it a $5,000 (USD) stipend to assist and strengthen the ability of grassroots human rights groups to do their work. The awardees will also have the opportunity to meet with U.S.-based LGBT activists and supporters during special award ceremonies and public education events in New York and San Francisco.
Previous Felipa Award winners include: Rauda Morcos, founder of ASWAT (Voices) the first group for Palestinian lesbians, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), the first organization to push for the human rights of LGBT people in Zimbabwean society and to provide counseling services and HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns; Simon Tseko Nikoli, the famed LGBT/HIV activist from South Africa; Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, whose leader Brian Williamson was murdered in 2004; Lohana Berkins, a globally known transgender activist from Argentina; and Maher Sabry, the Egyptian activist who notified IGLHRC of the arrests of the Cairo 52, a group of 52 men who were arrested by the Egyptian police at a Cairo gay nightclub in 2001.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in San Francisco and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information.
Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s only LGBT Organization, Receives International Recognition for their LGBT Human Rights Work
February 4, 2007 – zeenews.com
Nepal gives legal status to transgender for the first time
Kathmandu – In a first for Nepal, a transgender person has been given a citizenship certificate which gives special recognition to the gender. Chanda Musalman of Banke district in western Nepal has been recognised not as a man or woman, but as "both" in the official document, an NGO working for the protection of the rights of sexual minorities said today.
Chanda had applied for citizenship certificate as a transgender and the administration has accepted the application and granted the certificate, said Sunil Punta, president of blue diamond society. This is for the first time any Nepalese person has got citizenship certificate which marks the gender as "both"( male and female). I hope that the other rights of sexual minorities will be ensured as well, Panta said.
April 10, 2007 – www.iglhrc.org
Nepal’s Maoists Released Two “Lesbian Suspects” After a Month-long Detention
Two young Nepalese women, who were detained for over a month in a Maoist camp on suspicion of being lesbians, were finally freed by their captors. The Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal’s only LGBT rights activist organization, announced the news and reported that while in the Maoist camp, the detainees were pressured to live a “straight life” and were forced to carry weapons against their will. According to reports published by Times of India (April 9, 2007), the two detainees, Dukhani Choudhary, 16, and Sarita Choudhury, 20, were day-laborers working for an HIV/AIDS advocacy NGO in Pakali village, in southern Nepal. They were arrested on March 2 on their way to work and were sent to a Maoist camp where they were interrogated for six hours and were told that they would have to "undergo a blood test to check if they were lesbians."
Since their arrest, the women were not allowed to the contact the outside world and despite BDS’ efforts, no one knew about their whereabouts. Sunil Pant, president of BDS informed the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Biratnagar of the disappearance of the two women, but the office’s main concern was that Dukhani was a minor. The recent incident comes amid a new wave of discouraging comments and homophobic actions by Maoists. Last month, an influential Maoist women’s leader Hisila Yami told a panel organized by BDS that "We don’t punish homosexuals but we also don’t encourage homosexual behavior."
12th April 2007 – PinkNews
Lesbians released by Nepal rebels
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
Two women working for an HIV/AIDS advocacy group in Nepal have been freed from a Maoist camp after a month in captivity. Dukhani Choudhary, 16, and Sarita Choudhury, 20, were taken by the rebels on March 2nd. During their detention they were interrogated about their relationship and pressured into returning to a heterosexual lifestyle. The Times of India reported that the Maoists told the women they would have to "undergo a blood test to check if they were lesbians."
Nepal’s only LGBT advocacy group the Blue Diamond Society had worked to free them and announced their release to the world. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) earlier this week announced BDS as the recipient of its internationally recognized Felipa de Souza Award. The 2007 Felipa Award will be presented to Sunil Pant, the founder and director of BDS, at two awards ceremonies to be held on May 1st in New York and on May 3rd in San Francisco.
Since 1994, the Felipa Award has acknowledged the courage and impact of grassroots groups and leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other individuals stigmatised and abused because of their sexuality or HIV status. The Blue Diamond Society was founded in 2001 in an effort to address the needs of sexual minorities. In June 2004, in response to increasing incidents of police brutality against LGBT people, BDS organised the first public demonstration to support human rights for sexual minorities.
Two months later, in another incident, Nepalese police arrested and jailed 39 LGBT activists. Immediately afterward, BDS spearheaded a national and international campaign to secure the release of the detainees. At the start of 2007 gangs of Maoist militants launched a campaign in Nepal against the country’s gay and lesbian population. Gays and lesbians in the Himalayan kingdom previously suffered persistent persecution from security forces during the absolutist rule of King Gyanendra.
LGBT people joined the Maoists and others to protest in a democracy movement against the king last year, demanding a freely elected, secular government. When King Gyanendra finally relinquished sovereign power to the civilian government, it was hoped that gay and lesbian Nepalese would be granted human rights and legal protection. The Maoist insurgents, who fought a ten-year guerrilla war against monarchist forces at a cost of over 12,000 lives, finally signed a peace agreement with the new democratic government in November last year.
No longer regarded as terrorists, the Maoists have turned their attention to ridding the country of "social pollutants," such as pornography, infidelity, drunkenness and homosexuality, which they claim are products of capitalism.
April 2, 2007 – www.qtmagazine.com
Finding a Gay-Owned Business in Nepal Just Got Easier
For people visiting Nepal, finding and supporting gay-owned businesses can be a bit of a challenge. That may soon change, however, if more businesses follow in the groundbreaking footsteps of The Cutey Beauty Salon, which recently opened in Kathmandu’s Lazimpat area. According to a report from the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), the salon is run by gays and transgenders and was inaugurated by Kikkan Haugen, deputy head of mission of the Norwegian embassy. The project was funded by the Oslo-based Norwegian National Association of Lesbian and Gay Liberation and Sigrid Rausing Trust in London.
The salon, which is running with the support of the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s only gay rights group, offers a fairly typical array of beauty services, including haircuts, facials, manicures and pedicures, but it also acts as a training academy for members of the gay community who want to become beauticians. “Up to now, nothing has been done to support transgenders and the sexual minorities, who are the most marginalized, poor and socially excluded in Nepal,” Sunil Pant, head of the Blue Diamond Society, told the IANS. “The salon is an opportunity for them to lead self-supporting and dignified lives so that they can make a living and contribute to the larger society. This is a first of its kind in Nepal.”
April 9, 2007 – 365gay.com
Young Lesbians Released After Month Captivity By Maoists
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
(Katmandu) Two young lesbians captured by Maoist guerrillas in southern Nepal have been released the LGBT rights group Blue Diamond Society said Monday. Dukhani Choudhary, 16, and Sarita Choudhury, 20, said they had been seized on March 2 after the rebels who control much of the south discovered the pair were gay. They turned up at the Society’s office in Katmandu, the capital, on Monday. The women said that they were on their way to work at a local HIV/AIDS office when they were taken prisoner, according to Blue Diamond. The women, from impoverished families and nearly illiterate, worked as cleaners at the office.
Blue Diamond said that women were taken to a rebel camp, questioned and then imprisoned where they were beaten until they renounced homosexuality. The women reportedly were then freed, after agreeing to join the Maoists. They said they slipped out of a rebel camp and made their way to the capital. After more than a year battling the government of King Gyanendra the Maoists are now part of an elected coalition government. At the time Blue Diamond had hoped years of repression against the tiny country’s LGBT community would end but instead attacks have been stepped up.
Nepal has come under increasing international condemnation for its treatment of sexual minorities. In January, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, criticized the new government of Nepal for not ending discrimination against the LGBT community. Members of the LGBT community are arbitrarily arrested, held without a hearing and beaten and tortured by prison guards. Last year police arrested 26 transsexuals in one raid. According to Blue Diamond they were taken to the Hanuman Dhoka central police station in Kathmandu where they were held for weeks without being allowed to contact anyone. Blue Diamond also said that people working in the areas of HIV prevention are regularly harassed by police.
Nepal was one of several countries named in last year’s State Department report on human rights violators. (story)
17th April 2007 – PinkNews
Maoist rebels told to stop gay bashing
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
The Communist Party of Nepal must stop anti-gay violence by its cadres and renounce anti-gay rhetoric, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to lawmakers. The former rebel Maoists are now part of the Nepalese government In the most recent known example of discriminatory attacks, Maoist soldiers detained a woman and a teenage girl accused of having a sexual relationship and tried to force them to become Maoist soldiers.
Human Rights Watch said the kidnapping shows the need for all parties in Nepal to endorse protections for full equality, including for lesbians and gays, in the new constitution to be drafted later this year. On November 21, 2006, an agreement between Nepal’s coalition government and the Maoists ended 10 years of fighting. Since signing the peace accord, the Maoists have joined the interim government.
"As Nepal tries to recover from a decade of conflict, its leaders should make it clear that no one’s rights are disposable," said Jessica Stern, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Abusing women for their sexuality and forcibly recruiting children are simply unacceptable in a new Nepal."
In March Maoists detained a 16-year-old girl and a 20-year-old woman on suspicion that they had a sexual relationship. The two were on their way to a celebration of the annual Hindu Holi festival in Pankali village in Sunsari district that had been organised by the Human Welfare Society, a Nepali non-governmental organization working on issues of HIV/AIDS and human rights. According to the Blue Diamond Society, another Nepali group working in the field of health, sexual rights and HIV prevention, the two were held for eight hours at the Maoist camp in Singiya village in Sunsari.
They were intensively interrogated about whether they were homosexuals, and informed by a Maoist cadre that they would have to "undergo a blood test to check if they were lesbians." Officials from the Human Welfare Society were also summoned to the Maoist camp and subjected to interrogation. The girl’s family had used violence on several occasions against the couple and had demanded that the Maoists take action against them.
In late 2006, the girl and woman were abducted and held in a Maoist camp at Lochani village in Morang District. At the camp, the Maoists called the alleged couple derogatory names for homosexuals and ordered them to join the Maoists as soldiers because it would lead them to the "straight life." When they refused to carry weapons, they were deprived of food and beaten almost daily. After one month, they managed to escape.
"The Maoists have to show that their troops respect the law and the rights of all Nepalis, especially now that they’re in government," Stern said. "Maoist leaders should act swiftly to condemn abuses, and support a new constitution that protects everyone from discrimination, regardless of gender or sexual orientation." These attacks stand in stark contrast with recent commitments made by Hisila Yami, a Maoist member of parliament and the Minister for Infrastructure in Nepal’s interim government.
In January 2007, at a programme organised by the Blue Diamond Society, Yami stated that the party had recently adopted a policy "not to encourage homosexual behaviour but not punish homosexuals either." However, other recent statements by Maoist leaders have painted a different picture. In December 2006, Maoist senior leader and Minister of Local Development Dev Gurung said publicly that: "Under Soviet rule and when China was still very much a communist state, there were no homosexuals in the Soviet Union or China. "Homosexuality is a production of capitalism. Under socialism this kind of problem doesn’t exist."
May 08, 2007 – GayNZ.com News
‘Miss Transgender’ crowned in Nepal
Ref: DNA India (m)
Less than a month after the controversial staging of the Miss Nepal pageant, the country’s gay community has held a Miss Transgender contest, in a double defiance of the Maoist opposition to beauty pageants as well as homosexuality. Wearing an embroidered and sequinned red sari, 21-one-year-old Ria, also known as Raju Gurung, wore the Miss Transgender crown at a pageant on Sunday in Pokhara city, a popular tourist destination in the landlocked Himalayan country. Though initially over a dozen people signed up to take part in the contest, many of them backed out at the last minute due to family pressure and the social stigma surrounding homosexuality in Nepal, a local daily said.
The pageant consisted of an introduction round, a talent contest and a question-answer session.
In the past, there have been gay-organised pageants and gay ramp shows in Kathmandu organised by Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s only group dedicated to fighting for the rights of sexual minorities. This year, after the Maoist guerrillas joined the government, the Society alleged that rebel cadres were cracking down on homosexuals. Two women were also ‘jailed’ by the Maoists for their involvement. The women’s wing of the Maoists last month created a furore when they tried to ban the Miss Nepal contest, Nepal’s oldest and most prestigious beauty pageant. Though Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who belongs to the Maoist party, said he was against such shows on principle, the pageant was held despite mounting opposition by Maoist women and other civil organisations.
Nepal’s gay community, once afraid to come out of the closet, began demanding their rights after the Blue Diamond Society began lobbying both at home and abroad for gay rights. This year, the community got a major breakthrough when a team of government officials in southern Nepal issued a citizenship certificate to a gay man, describing him as a transgender in the document instead of the earlier formal classification of either male or female. Last month, the community also met Nepal’s minister for women, children and social welfare as well as the parliament speaker to advocate the inclusion of pro-gay policies.
May 18, 2007 – reuters.com
Nepal gays fight taboo to hold first "Pink Pageant"
by Gopal Sharma
Kathmandu (Reuters Life!) – Resplendent in sequined evening gowns, more than a dozen gay men took to the stage in Nepal’s first homosexual beauty contest, urging authorities in the remote Himalayan nation to recognize their rights. In the show billed as the "Pink Pageant", 18 participants sashayed down the catwalk late on Thursday, wearing make-up and swinging their hips to Nepali pop music as the crowd whistled and cheered. Homosexuality is mostly taboo in the conservative majority-Hindu nation. "Unnatural sex", as it is termed by law, can fetch up to one year in jail. In the three-hour show, participants dressed up in traditional Nepali costumes as well as Western evening dresses, and spoke of how they were rejected by their families and neglected by society.
"Give us also love just as you do to others," said Tina, a contestant, wearing a long pink evening dress. "To be a gay is not a crime. We are the citizens of this country," said Bindiya, another participant. Gays find it hard getting work and often do not get citizenship papers which are required for government jobs, to run a business and to get a passport, gay rights campaigners say.
"Hopefully the government will listen to them and ensure their rights," said Sunil Pant, founder of Nepal’s gay rights group, the Blue Diamond Society, which organized the show. Activists also accuse police and Maoists rebels — who have joined the political mainstream after ending their decade-long civil war — of harassing and intimidating homosexuals.
Police say they are detained when they cause "disturbances" in public places but are released quickly. Nepal’s new constitution must ensure the rights of sexual minorities and end discrimination, participants added. Following the end of the civil conflict, the country plans to hold elections this year for an assembly which will eventually draft a new constitution.
July 17, 2007 – www.chinaview.cn
Palace chief: Potala Palace well preserved
Lhasa, July 16 (Xinhua) – The director of the Potala Palace, when responding to the concern of UNESCO about Potala Palace, said: "Potala Palace has so far enjoyed first-class preservation." UNESCO disagrees and has expressed concern at the palace becoming increasingly hemmed in by nondescript modern Chinese buildings.
"Seeing is believing. I hope the UNESCO officials can carry outan on-the-spot investigation of the Potala Palace. A conclusion without an investigation is meaningless," said Qiangba Gesang, palace director for 19 years. A year after its inauguration, the Qinghai-Tibet railway has transported 1.5 million passengers into Tibet, nearly half of the total tourists arrivals in the region. Concerns have arisen that the weight of the tourist influx would pose a serious impact on the mud and wood structures of the 13-storey palace.
"For the overcrowding of tourists, we have found solutions," said Qiangba Gesang. The palace currently restricts visitors to 2,300 a day and stays open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. "The restriction of visitors proves our commitment to the protection of Potala Palace," said Qiangba Gesang. "We can’t fully satisfy the needs of all tourists, but we have no other way around it." Qiangba Gesang said the central government has kept a close eyeon the preservation of Potala Palace, which was added to the list of world cultural heritage sites by UNESCO in 1994.
In 2002, the central government invested a total 179.3 million yuan (about 23.6 million U.S. dollars) in the renovation of the palace and plan to invest more in the near future, he said. Potala Palace, the essence of ancient Tibetan architectural art, was first built by the Tibetan King Songtsa Gambo in the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), and was extended during the 17th century by the Dalai Lama. The palace, together with the Norbu Lingka and the Sakya Monastery, are the three main Tibetan cultural heritage sites. The local government will invest 140 million yuan (about 18.4 million U.S. dollars) to renovate the areas surrounding Norbu Lingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama.
Editor: Yan Liang
July 24, 2007 – Hindustan Times
Elton John stands behind Nepal’s gay community
Kathmandu (Indo-Asian News Service) – British singer Sir Elton John has taken up cudgels on behalf of Nepal’s sexual minorities, who were recently told by a government official that instead of trying to educate the gay community about the spread of HIV/AIDS they should "find something better to do". The Elton John AIDS Foundation, Britain’s largest charity that supports AIDS intervention programmes across the world, issued a statement from London, saying it was "extremely proud" to support the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal’s only gay rights organisation, and the HIV/AIDS work it was doing in the country. "Men who have sex with men, transgender communities and other sexual minorities are made far more vulnerable to HIV infection when they are forced to live their lives in secret by a society that denies or condemns their existence," Robert Kay, executive director of the Foundation, said "BDS is working to inform these communities about HIV/AIDS and their rights and support those who are HIV positive to access appropriate treatment and care services."
The foundation, which will send a copy of the statement to the appropriate ministries in Nepal, is urging the Nepal government to work in tandem with NGOs like BDS, saying they reach out to vulnerable communities, especially in remote areas where there is a high HIV/AIDS prevalence level and limited government treatment and care services. The foundation, which in 2005 donated 25,000 pounds to BDS to support its AIDS programmes, issued the statement after a support project started with the money in Nepal’s remote Dhangadi district was vilified by a district public health officer and other NGOs as promoting homosexuality and polluting society. Though Nepal’s government ignored the incident, it created a furore abroad. Gay rights organisations condemned Krishna Bhatta, the Dhangadi public health officer.
Bhatta, who presides over a monthly meeting with health workers in the area, also said at the controversial meeting earlier this month that there were no gays or transgenders in Dhangadi and therefore, the BDS care and support programme was "absolutely unnecessary". A woman health worker from a well known NGO in the area was also reported as saying that if the BDS programme was allowed in Dhangadi, it would promote homosexuality and "pollute entire society". According to BDS, more than 15 people living with HIV have been sent to Kathmandu for further support, treatment and hospice facilities since the scheme started two months ago.
Kay said the foundation was "appalled" to hear about the "bigoted and factually incorrect attitudes" shown at the meeting. He is asking the government of prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala to show leadership in promoting the rights of all citizens under the UN covenants on Human Rights, to which Nepal is a signatory. The foundation is also asking that officials, particularly those working in the area of HIV/AIDS, be sensitised to the needs and rights of sexual minority groups. In Nepal, where sons are preferred over daughters, homosexuals are treated as outcasts, refused jobs and often thrown out by their families.
There are also repeated instances of police harassing and assaulting gays and transgenders. The gay community says it feels especially let down that the new multiparty government has done nothing to improve their status, though they supported the pro-democracy struggle against King Gyanendra’s absolute rule last year.
With just four months left before a crucial election that will result in a new constitution for Nepal, the sexual minority is lobbying hard to get the rights of gays, lesbians, trangenders and other sexual minorities protected in the new statute.
August 1, 2007 – New York TImes
Nepal has until recently had relatively few AIDS cases
by Donald G. McNeil, Jr
Nepal – a poor, religiously conservative country in the Himalayas — has until recently had relatively few AIDS cases. The government estimates that it has only about 10,000. The official Unaids estimate is 75,000, but that may be too high, given that some previous estimates for other countries have been wrong. One month ago, for example, Unaids cut its official estimate for neighboring India by 56 percent, to about 2.5 million infected, more than anywhere except South Africa and Nigeria. The study, which was paid for by the State Department’s Office of Trafficking in Persons and by Harvard and Boston Universities, tested 287 girls and women being helped by a charity called Maiti Nepal, or Nepali Mother’s Home, in the capital, Katmandu. Most had been sent home by Indian anti-prostitution groups working with the police. Thirty-eight percent of the Nepali women tested by Dr. Silverman’s team were infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. But among the youngest — the 33 girls who had been sent into sex slavery before they were 15 years old — the infection rate was 61 percent.
Brothel owners pay twice as much for young girls, Dr. Silverman said, and charge more for sex with them, sometimes presenting them as virgins, because men think young girls have fewer diseases or believe the myth — common in some countries — that sex with a virgin cures AIDS. It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Dr. Silverman said. “Some of them are just shells — and shells of very young human beings. It’s every father of a daughter’s worst nightmare.” About half of those tested had been lured to India by promises of jobs as maids or in restaurants. Some were invited on family visits or pilgrimages and then sold — sometimes by relatives. Some were falsely promised marriage. Some were simply drugged and kidnapped, often by older women offering a cup of tea or a soft drink in a public market or train station, Dr. Silverman said.
Not all Nepali women are kidnapped or tricked, Miss Mendoza, the former Unaids official, noted; poverty drives some into the profession knowingly. “This heartless ‘trade’ has been popular for more than six decades in the subcontinent,” said Romesh Bhattacharji, a former national law enforcement official in India. “In some parts of northern Nepal, one can tell which house has a girl working in an Indian brothel by its roof. If it’s tin, that’s brothel money.” Miss Mendoza said returning girls may be rejected by their families and villages because of fear that they will either corrupt other girls or will so taint the village’s reputation that no one will marry its young women.
As a result, these victims of kidnapping and rape may be forced to keep selling themselves. One survey of Katmandu prostitutes, Dr. Silverman said, found that half had worked in India. They may also become pregnant and, without treatment, infect their children. Working in a brothel in Mumbai — India’s financial capital and one of the world’s largest cities — was a risk factor in itself, the study found. The youngest also tended to have been in multiple brothels and in them for more than a year, raising their risk. India’s epidemic, concentrated among prostitutes, truckers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs, is most common in its industrialized south and in the heroin-smuggling areas near Pakistan and Myanmar, not in regions bordering Nepal. Worldwide, about 500,000 young women are trafficked each year, according to the State Department. Most of the 150,000 trafficked in southern Asia end up working as prostitutes in Indian cities, according to the United States Congressional Research Service. Rights agencies said a decade ago that up to 7,000 women from Nepal were trafficked to India each year; civil strife has presumably increased that number.
7th August 2007 – PinkNews
‘Lesbian’ soldiers dismissed from Nepalese army
by Tony Grew
Two female personnel have been kicked out of the army of Nepal on suspicion of being lesbians. The Kathmandu Post reports that the pair were court-martialled after being found in bed with eachother. They said that nothing sexual had occurred, but that charges of lesbianism were brought against them by their superiors. Nepalese army spokesman Brigadier-General Ramindra Chhetri told the Post the women were dismissed because they "lacked discipline" and refused to comment on the lesbian allegations. The position of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Nepal has worsened in recent months.
LGBT people had joined Maoist rebels and others to protest in a democracy movement against the king last year, demanding a freely elected, secular government. When King Gyanendra finally relinquished sovereign power to the civilian government, it was hoped that gay and lesbian Nepalese would be granted human rights and legal protection. The Maoist insurgents, who fought a ten-year guerrilla war against monarchist forces at a cost of over 12,000 lives, finally signed a peace agreement with the new democratic government in November last year.
No longer regarded as terrorists, the Maoists have turned their attention to ridding the country of "social pollutants," such as pornography, infidelity, drunkenness and homosexuality, which they claim are products of capitalism. In the most recent known example of discriminatory attacks, Maoist soldiers detained a woman and a teenage girl accused of having a sexual relationship and tried to force them to become Maoist soldiers. This is a critical time in the fight for LGBT rights in Nepal. Elections are due to be held in November, when a new constitution will be voted on. Gay rights activists are demanding they be protected.
November, 2007 – International Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commision
IGLHRC Congratulates Nepali LGBTI Organizations on Supreme Court Victory
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) congratulates Nepal’s LGBTI organizations on today’s ruling by the Nepali Supreme Court recognizing the rights of LGBTI people in that country.
On November 21, 2007, the Supreme Court of Nepal heard a writ petition submitted by Blue Diamond Society (BDS) and three other Nepali LGBTI groups demanding protection of their legal rights. Their demands were threefold: to recognize the civil rights of transgender people without requiring them to renounce one gender identity for another; to create a new law preventing discrimination and violence against LGBT communities; and to require the state to make reparations to LGBT victims of state violence and/or discrimination. In response to a request by BDS for legal observers to be present at the hearing, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) commissioned a team of lawyers from India, Vivek Divan and Arvind Narrain, to serve as court observers and share legal strategy with BDS legal counsel. IGLHRC’s report can be viewed by clicking here. Below is a release by Sunil Pant of BDS announcing today’s victory. Congratulations again to our Nepali colleagues including BDS, IGLHRC’s 2007 Felipa de Souza Award winner. You have set a new standard for LGBTI rights around the world.
Great victory of Nepalese LGBTI !
Supreme Court of Nepal issued directive orders to the Government of Nepal to end discrimination against LGBTI and ensure equal rights as heterosexual men and women in Nepal. Four LGBTI organizations including Blue Diamond Society had filed a writ petition in last April 2007(05/01/2064) demanding to defend and protect equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexed (LGBTI) people of Nepal. After having heard 3 times over the last few months, Supreme Court of Nepal has recognized LGBTIs today as natural persons
Picture by Usha Titikshu/SANGYA group at the front yard of Supreme Court after the historic decission. http://www.insn.org
It is believed that LGBTI will enjoy, today onward, all the rights according their sexual and gender identities as other genders enshrined by the Constitution of Nepal and human rights conventions in which Nepal is a State Party. The Court issued directive orders to Nepal government to ensure rights to life according to their own identities and introduce laws providing equal rights to LGBTIs and amend all the discriminatory laws against LGBTI’s rights as well. On the issue of same sex marriage, The Court has also issued directive order to form a 7 member committee (Doctor appointed by Health Ministry, one representative from National Human rights commission, law Ministry, socialist appointed by government of Nepal, representative from Nepal police, representative from Ministry of population and environment and one advocate as a representative from the LGBTI community) to conduct study about the other countries’/international practice on the same sex marriage. Based on the 7 member committee recommendation government will make appropriate law. We, all LGBTI Nepalese, are extremely happy and proud on Supreme Court whose decision is extremely progressive on such a difficult issue for our society, especially on the matter of gender identity to the possible extinct. This is the first time ever any Supreme Court has spoken such a positive manner on gender identity issues ever on the world. We salute our honorable judges Balaram KC and Pawan Kumar Ojha.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all friends, leaders, media, civil society, international support, political parties, OHCHR, ICJ, National Human Rights commission, Human Rights Watch, FWLD, Front Line Defenders, ILGHRC, Lawyers Collective, Alternative law forum, NFI, Outrageous, ARC international and our lawyers (Hari Phunyal- ICJ, Rup Narayan Shrestha- FWLD, Hari Upreti, Bhuvan Niraula, Sarmila Dhakal, Prem Rai-ICJ, Chandra Kanta Gaywanli). I also salute our LGBTI communities who have fought for years and stood for these rights even in difficult times and situation, without whose collective struggle it would have never been possible. We would like to express our hearty thanks to our donors, LLH/Norad, HIVOS, Dutch Embassy, Astraea Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust, CCOs, Sidaction, Elton John Aids Foundation, FHI, PSI, DFID, Global Fund for Women, Mama Cash, Urgent Action Fund, and Butlars County and many more.
Sunil B Pant
Blue Diamond Society
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Johannesburg and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information
December 21, 2007 – Newsday.com
Nepal’s Goddess Stumbles Into Modernity
By Tim Sullivan, Associated Press Writer
Katmandu, Nepal – The living goddess likes bubble gum. On a cold autumn evening, during a festival giving thanks for the monsoon rains, dozens of chanting worshippers pulled her enormous wooden chariot through the narrow streets of Katmandu’s old city. Thousands of cheering people pressed forward, hoping for a blessing. Drunken young men danced around her, pounding drums and shouting. But the goddess — a child wrapped in red silk, a third eye painted on her forehead as a sign of enlightenment — took little notice of the joyous riot. Instead, she stared ahead intently, her jaw pumping furiously. Then, finally, she blew a yellow bubble about the size of a plum.
And then the goddess smiled, just a little.
Priti Shakya is 10 years old, the daughter of a family of poor goldsmiths. At the age of 4, a panel of judges examined her in a series of ancient ceremonies — checking her horoscope, searching for physical imperfections and, as a final test, seeing if she would be frightened after a night spent in a room filled with 108 freshly decapitated animal heads. She was not. So Priti became a goddess, worshipped as the incarnation of the powerful Hindu deity Taleju, and going into near-complete isolation in an ancient Katmandu palace. She will return home only at the onset of menstruation, when a new goddess will be named. Then Priti will be left to adjust to a life that — suddenly and absolutely — is supposed to be completely normal. That is how it has been for nearly four centuries, in a tradition that held out against modernity even as Nepal, ever so slowly, began to change.
But modernity is coming, even to the goddess.
She has been dragged into Nepal’s political maelstrom, her influence argued over by everyone from Maoist militants to the prime minister. Her role, meanwhile, has become a topic of public debate, with human rights lawyers, politicians and academics wrangling about a child’s rights and an ancient form of worship.
Today, everything from television to insults reach into the goddess’ palace.
A communist politician called her an "evil symbol" and the Supreme Court launched an investigation after activists said the tradition violates Nepalese law. In a showdown that melded religion, politics and the monarchy, the nascent democratic government refused to allow King Gyanendra to receive the goddess’ annual blessing — thought to be an all-important protector of the king. When the king went without permission, the government slashed the number of royal bodyguards. Among the Shakyas, the goldsmith caste that chooses the goddess from its daughters, it has become increasingly difficult to find families willing to send their girls away.
For some people, all this is simply too much.
"We know there needs to be change," said Manju Shree Ratna Bajracharya, the eighth generation of priest from his family to oversee the temple of the royal kumari — or virgin — as the goddess is commonly called. "But this criticism of the tradition, this is pure ignorance." He is bitter about politicians who focus on the kumaris for political gain, and the way she has been pulled into their battles with the king. He distrusts the rights activists, wondering if they are using the practice for publicity. "The tradition can’t be treated like this," said Bajracharya, who spends most of his days working as a bureaucrat in the state electricity company. "It is too important to Nepal." But any criticism at all would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago, when Nepal was emerging from centuries of Himalayan isolation. It was a nation bound by feudal traditions, a country that handed out visitors’ visas very reluctantly, and where few people could imagine a king without absolute power.
While change did eventually come — foreigners began arriving regularly in the 1960s, when Katmandu became famous for its hippies and cheap drugs — it came slowly. It was only five years ago, for instance, when women earned equal inheritance rights under Nepalese law. Today, Nepal is a democracy — albeit a fragile one, with crushing poverty, a figurehead monarch and a powerful Maoist militant movement with tenuous ties to mainstream politics — and change is coming even to the kumari. Some of those changes are political, such as how the prime minister now seeks her official blessing, instead of the king. But some are more personal.
Teachers have been appointed, keeping the goddess on the same academic track as any other girl her age. There’s also television in the palace these days, giving the kumari access to everything from Bollywood to the news, and there’s talk that she may be allowed someday to live at home with her family. It is an attempt to give some normalcy to the goddesses, who can flail desperately when they return to the outside world.
Rashmila Shakya, one of eight ex-royal kumaris still alive, remembers the pain of her return. Now a 25-year-old computer technician, she left the kumari palace at age 12. She’d had no proper schooling, and her feet had not touched the outside ground for years. Her only playmates had been the children of the palace’s caretaker, and while her family could visit, even they saw her as a goddess. Her return home took a heavy toll. "I didn’t even know how to walk around like a regular person," said Shakya, a quiet, bookish young woman who dreams of becoming a software designer. "The crowds frightened me." Still, she said, she doesn’t regret her time in the palace. "Not everybody gets to be a goddess," she said, smiling. "In one life, I got to have two lives."
February 26, 2008 – Reuters
Nepali gay men contesting poll hope to end taboo
by Gopal Sharma
Kathmandu (Reuters) – At least five Nepali gay men are contesting this year’s elections in the hope of shattering taboos in the conservative nation, a gay candidate said. Homosexuality is effectively illegal in Nepal under a law banning "unnatural sex". Offenders can be jailed for up to a year. Gay and transgender Nepalis complain that they are often excluded from jobs and schools because of their sexuality, and sometimes are victims of assault or rape, including by police.
"It is a prejudiced society," said Sunil Babu Pant, founder of a leading gay rights group, Blue Diamond Society. "We are standing in the elections to fight the discrimination against our community," he said. "This is a very symbolic approach to tell all Nepalis that we have equal rights." Pant and four other gay candidates are standing for public election on April 10 to become members of a new 601-seat constituent assembly. It will be Nepal’s first national vote since 1999.
The five candidates have been fielded by the Nepal Communist Party (United), a junior partner in the ruling alliance. There are already signs the taboo may be beginning to lose its grip. In December, the Supreme Court ordered the government to end discrimination against gays and guarantee sexual minorities the same rights as other citizens.
Pant feels he has a good chance of winning, saying there are hundreds of thousands of gay and transgender voters across the country to whom he will appeal. "I feel sad and we feel excluded," said Pant, who lives in Kathmandu. "As human beings we all like to be loved and respected. We are deprived of the opportunity to contribute to our society and nation."
March 2008 – Himal Magazine: Southeast Asia
The state of homosexuality: A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Nepal has brought about a significant victory in the ongoing push for sexual rights. But in allowing the state to be the final arbiter of these rights, Nepali activist groups have allowed their own local identities to be overwritten by globalised notions of sexuality.
by Diwas Kc
Nepal was recently witness to a victory of sorts for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and inter-sex (LGBTI) communities. It was an undeniably historic day on 21 December 2007, when the Supreme Court of Nepal, in response to a petition filed by a coalition of local LGBTI-rights groups, ordered the government to fulfil its contractual responsibility to LGBTI individuals by amending existing legislation or formulate new laws that would permit this community to better exercise its civil and human rights. This was certainly an atypical victory for Nepal’s LGBTI movement. In the aftermath, questions are now surfacing about how ideas and identities travel across the transnational landscape, and what social contexts make these transmissions more successful in certain places and times. These questions are especially pertinent when compared to neighbouring India, the imagined custodian of Southasian democracy. Despite having sustained a movement for a longer period, India’s gay activists have failed even in their attempts to extricate homosexuality from the general scope of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises all “carnal intercourses against the order of nature.”
Nepal’s Civic Code, which dates back to 1854, has undergone major reconstructions. But it nonetheless showed an odd lack of imagination when it came to homosexuality, and the chapter on bestiality that criminalised “unnatural sex” remained unchanged throughout. The use of this statute, much like Sec 377, is in fact very sporadic, absent even in the long history of Nepali jurisprudence. Since its inception in 2001, the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s leading LGBTI advocacy group, has thus engaged in a series of tussles with the Supreme Court, documenting harrowing cases of abuses, police brutality and arbitrary arrests, and has made ‘inclusion’ and ‘recognition’ its rallying calls. The Supreme Court’s ostensibly pro-LGBTI stance is the latest in a spate of progressive rulings that have come about in recent times in Nepal. Following the People’s Movement of April 2006, a cacophony of voices has saturated the country’s political climate, which has succeeded in making discourses on equality, plurality and identity ubiquitous in the public sphere. In this context, emerging issues have also manifested in non-partisan ways, sometimes circumventing party politics altogether.
Meanwhile, liberal discussions of human rights have been propelled through the international developmental circuit, as a result of which the judicial route has significantly opened up as a real option for the continuation of social struggles. With mounting calls for sweeping changes and the drafting of a new interim constitution underway, the justice system has found itself in the vanguard, ordered to modernise and stabilise the country, and to undo the horrors of the recent and long past. The courts have reciprocated by turning to international experiences of democratic constitution-building. With the spectres of equality and multiculturalism constantly hounding it, the constitutional process has been exceedingly open to pressure from below. It is in this context that Nepal has inaugurated an escapade of LGBTI rights, cozened into an openness unfamiliar in Southasia.
Leap of egalitarianism
The long and relentless march of European Enlightenment seems to have found yet another triumph in the LGBTI movement of Nepal. This is primarily because the notion of emancipation based on gender identities is deeply entrenched in ideas of development, modernisation, rationality and progress, all concepts that were radically defined during the Enlightenment period. Commonly couched in a rigid binary of tradition versus modernity, this narrative sees countries such as Nepal as undergoing a long process of transition, the distant culmination of which are the ideals of the ‘modern individual’ and the ‘perfect state’. The same march of progress and reason may have once convinced Englishmen to colonise, represent and standardise the neighbouring countries of Southasia (leaving behind, among other things, the notorious Sec 377), but that is only a historical irony. The ‘Enlightened’ ideas of modernity have a universal allure, and therefore have been an irrefutable source of legitimacy for all sorts of political movements. The rhetoric of human rights, for example, is one such source that miraculously transforms myriads of people into ‘modern’ subjects, whose political, ethical and cultural differences can be overcome through their common privileges as humans. Appealing to these ideas means that the LGBTI movement of Nepal must directly engage with the state, since the state – in a real sense – embodies the universal ideas of progress and rationality. States, after all, are what make rights accessible, even the ‘intrinsic’ human rights, but only inasmuch as humans act as citizens, and only so long as freedoms are sought within the state framework. The Supreme Court of Nepal thus clearly declares that if the LGBTI minority enjoys “the right to their own identity”, it is only “by the virtue of being Nepali citizens”. The LGBTI turn to judicial processes and its emphasis on citizenship and rights thus make the state the ultimate agent of change.
By underscoring this relationship between the state and the LGBTI movement, sexual minorities become the lens through which we can understand crucial debates of identity and hierarchy. In this way, the LGBTI struggle of Nepal may allow issues of sexuality to come out of their circumscribed, relegated sphere, and simultaneously enable us to see reproductions of knowledge and power that are of wider significance. There is no doubt that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling should embolden not only the various LGBTI individuals of Nepal; it should also do so for those who have long expected, from a democracy such as Nepal, a proliferation of a wide variety of discussions, debates and discourses. One way or another, the fact that issues of sexuality have found space at all amidst the currently crammed social and economic agendas of Nepal is, for those who care, an extraordinary leap of egalitarianism. Seeing the LGBTI Nepali’s desire for recognition, inclusion and protection operating within the liberal, legal framework requires an irreversible linking of the local with the global. This does not, however, necessitate the reiteration of the view that sees the West as the natural hub of all social innovations, gradually exporting these outwards. Instead, the aim is to formulate connections between sexuality and governance along the longer history of global, cross-cultural relations. Moreover, insofar as the engagement of the LGBTI movement with the state takes the form of an emancipatory politics, we may even ask alternative, and ultimately more important, questions. For instance, in On the Jewish Question, Karl Marx wrote: “It is in no way sufficient to inquire: Who should emancipate? Who should be emancipated? A proper critique would have a third question – what sort of emancipation is under discussion?” It is this last query that is of specific relevance in the Nepal situation.
It is common to think of emerging movements of gender and sexual politics in Southasia, or anywhere outside of developed countries, in terms of what can be referred to as ‘transnational diffusion’. The developing countries seem only able to borrow or adapt debates that have already taken place in the West, and which are quickly traversing the globe. Even so, the complex expressions and meanings that sexuality comes to take in different cultures are generally acknowledged. Arvind Narrain, of the Bangalore-based Alternative Law Forum, a vital ally of the Blue Diamond Society, has pointed out how challenges to the marginalisation of homosexuality in India have not always required ‘modern’ expressions of sexuality or even a collective identity. Rather, time and again, same-sex couples (mostly women) have surfaced from the Indian backwoods, taking it upon themselves to call into question the established mores. Likewise, Pakistani gay activists sometimes recount, with a tinge of romanticism, the practice of virile Pashtun tribesmen taking young boys as their lovers. In Nepal, some LGBTI members speak of being a meti – a semi-urban, even modern term appropriated from Darjeeling that does not take its ideas about transgenderism from the globalised models of sexual identities. Metis are usually transvestites, who were born male but who do not identify as men. They seek the company of men, whom they call ta or panthi or ‘real men’, who desire sex with metis but who elude the homo-hetero binary altogether. The phrase ‘dui atma bhayeko’, or ‘two-spirited’, is also in use in Nepal, a concept that not only implies an almost mystical consciousness but also draws on local imageries of androgyny. That these expressions of gender and sexuality, even after being politicised under more prevalent categories of the rights-based movement, have found formal recognition by the Supreme Court as ‘tesro lingi’, or ‘third gender’, is an extraordinary instance of how powerful locally emerging identities can be. Now to be reproduced in all official documents, tesro lingi is a category quite singular in its inventiveness, forcing for the first time the Nepali state to defy the rigid binary of male and female.
These examples should be enough to demonstrate that self-knowledge through actual practices of sex and pleasure fiercely resist the reduction of sexuality to static and rigidly defined categories of identity. Champions of gay and human rights often try to temper the wild, insuperable terrain of the actual act of having sex by using such phrases as ‘diverse sexualities’. But this can have the opposite effect of standardising the fluid and indeterminate nature of sexual experiences. It is precisely the contrived ‘multiculturalist’ labelling of sexuality by the rights-based approach that, ironically, has reproduced homogeneous expressions of LGBTI identities the world over. In reality, the standardisation of LGBTI identities has tended to obliterate the real diversity possible in people’s lives. Occasionally, however, homosexuality has given rise to spaces that are quite insulated from the regulatory realms of governance. These spaces, which are typically referred to as ‘sub-cultures’, appear suddenly here and there, and are able to advance creative, indigenous forms of transgression. These also permit the kinds of freedoms that are not generally tolerated in the public sphere.
When the gay liberation movement first emerged in the US during the late 1960s, it came from just such a place of sexual and cultural dissidence, rejecting longstanding standard ‘histories’ of human relation, social convention and legal code. During those heady years, however, the gay sub-culture was not the only one that was seeking to mould itself as a force with which to be reckoned. In fact, black militants, radicals, students, feminists, fanatics, freaks, hippies and environmentalists were all experimenting with creative ways of combining cultural ideas with politics. Moral criticisms of the mainstream were launched not in an attempt to enter into the existing orders and sensibilities of culture, society and state, but rather to overcome, undermine and shatter them. State, law, convention, marriage, family, church, academy: no institution was considered too holy under the sudden assault of the ‘cultural backwaters’.
During this era in the US, it seemed that possessing the power to define one’s own identity could dismantle the entire social order, and such practices of self-invention appeared somehow linked to larger questions of international politics. Gay liberation in America would probably not have achieved a wider spread without a sense that a radically new world was imminent – a sense created cumulatively by the movements of racial equality, revolutionary nationalism and economic freedom that were at that time exploding around the world, for instance in Algeria, Cuba and China. During the 1960s, this truly global impulse had taken root in India as well, in the form of peasant movements, workers’ strikes and student protests. But if the discrete worlds of peasants in India and American queers might at first appear oddly interconnected through this claim, it is not due to some gay fantasy hoping to escape the cloister of sexual discourse. Rather, this has to do with the unequal ways that power is distributed, contentions generated and local consciousnesses fashioned.
In any case, the point is that homosexual ideas of the self and community come to light precisely in those places that are somehow dissonant with regards to the legal, moral and everyday mechanisms of the state and civil society. A miniature version of this sub-cultural, communal space has flourished in Kathmandu, as well. Unfortunately, the unregulated nature of this community – inhabited by metis, transsexuals and transvestite prostitutes – has made it a convenient outlet for the violence and prurience that originates, in the first place, from the repressed majority. Various accounts by metis, meticulously documented by the Blue Diamond Society and other human-rights forums, underscore not only the indignity but also the physical abuse unleashed on these groups. The sadism of the perpetrators – coming predominantly from the ranks of security personnel who, until recently, had infested the cityscapes of Kathmandu – is the most perverse display of power.
Yet, despite the recurrent bouts of despotism and fanaticism that Nepal has witnessed, the meti sub-culture has only grown, gradually moving from obscure crannies of Kathmandu to the more visible lanes of Thamel, the city’s youthful, recreational hub. This has allowed for a fertile terrain for transgression and the construction of new self-identities. But if this autonomy comes from being outside the ambit of governance and regulation, it is, nonetheless, merely a provisional one. After all, many in the LGBTI community find fostering the position of transgression and self-invented individuality incompatible with the demand for recognition and tolerance by the institutions of state and civil society. Instead, they would prefer what could be referred to as a language of ‘primordial determination’, one that talks about people being inherently something, or a particular identity.
The undergirding essences
A discussion of the metis, transsexuals and others groups who now come under the general category of the ‘third gender’ is important because the LGBTI movement of Nepal owes much of its momentum to them. While the majority of Nepali gays and lesbians continue to live ambiguous lives, the blatant – and more importantly, visible – ‘difference’ of the metis vis-à-vis the broader society has proved itself capable, in its own way, of invigorating the liberal democratic process of Nepal. The particularity and exceptionality of this group, in a context in which knowledge is largely based on the ‘spectacle’ of these individuals in public places, is a hotbed for identity politics. But identity politics is anything but a natural progression from the oft-repeated ‘difference’ of the metis. Both this difference and its form of politics are historical constructions, conditioned by marginality and discrimination. Indeed, the birth of LGBTI identity politics in Nepal comes from an awareness that homosexuality need not entail alternative modes of life, value system and association at all, but rather can be successfully assimilated into the conventions of the dominant order. After all, its vision of emancipation includes institutional recognition, juridical equality and tolerant plurality. With the modern liberal state at the crest of its political struggle, the LGBTI movement hopes – in a paradoxical sort of way – that the irreconcilability of their identities at the level of culture will be mended by their essential sameness as citizens of Nepal and of the world.
To believe in the emancipatory power of the state is to flirt with a key tenet of universalism, that grand liberal creation called the ‘individual’. The individual, in his or her bond with the state, is the ultimate metaphor of civility. It is no surprise, then, that the terms of civic engagement – not just for the LGBTI minority, but for all sorts of minority groups in Nepal – is that of respect and tolerance of the individual. To the question of how this notion of the citizen (the individual) is to remain unified while still addressing the demands of society, the catchwords inclusion and representation have emerged as spontaneous outcomes. In this way, society comes to appear not as a tangle of unequal social relations and interconnected structures, but as a distinct categorisation of people. Nothing demonstrates this more than the current popularisation of words such as diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism. Significantly, these words are also the means by which the LGBTI minority lays claim to cross-cultural, transnational identities. Constructions of identity at the global level are specifically acceptable to the state’s liberal/legal ways of looking at citizenship, since the state is itself one such universal construction. For LGBTI groups, there is a special vindication in representing their uniqueness as the cross-cultural essence of humanity, even if this often means letting their own identities be overwritten by globalised notions of sexuality. Ironically, as starkly diverse manifestations of homosexuality come to resemble standardised ‘Western’ categories of gender, multiculturalism inevitably becomes a homogenising agent.
The rhetoric of human rights is yet another overarching discourse. Irresistibly empowering, the language of rights has become an indispensable tool with which to shape the legal debate of LGBTI inclusion in Nepal. Since the very notion of progress and development has partly come to be measured in terms of human rights, the upsurge of the LGBTI movement in Nepal is difficult to imagine without the context in which development agencies and non-governmental organisations have rapidly reframed their agendas in terms of the so-called rights-based approach. At the international level, movements of social justice, independence and self-determination have all used the language of rights. But it was not until the end of the Cold War era that rights – and the concurrent discussion on ‘social issues’ – could come to the forefront. Until then, sterile disputes between the power blocs dominated the economic debates of the global forum. The inclusion of sexuality in the overall human-rights paradigm has been even slower, instilled in Nepal just in the last couple of years.
Arguably, rights talk – which has a fairly radical pedigree, mobilised as it was by many Third World countries against racial, colonial or capitalist regimes – has come to be neutralised, domesticated even, under the post-Soviet, post-Marxist championship of various international ‘development’ organisations. The question for LGBTI activists in Southasia, then, is the extent to which a rights-based discourse can ever be an adequate vehicle for genuine transformation.
For LGBTI movements such as Nepal’s in particular, identities are understood as the very condition of existence. The homosexual ‘identity’ is a terrain of extreme ambiguity, which is why the question of ‘visibility’ becomes so significant. Unlike one’s sex or ethnicity (although these too have their share of ambiguities), sexuality has to be discerned, possessed and then subjected to a unique nuance of personal choice regarding how to practice it and how much to reveal of it. The sexuality movement subsequently attempts to prop up its notion of identity with such ahistorical words as immutable, intrinsic and inborn. And so we hear the Supreme Court of Nepal mandate LGBTIs as “natural persons who, due to the natural and biological factors, may be attracted toward the same sex rather than the opposite even though they may have been born either as a male or a female, and based on their changed gender identity cannot pursue their business, including to establish conjugal life” (emphasis added). Although ascribing to homosexuality a characteristic that is present at birth inadvertently advances the problematic centuries-old idea of homosexuality as a disease, it nonetheless allows for its representation as being harmless – non-communicable and therefore non-threatening. Hence, by law, for LGBTI persons (for whom, according to the Supreme Court, “everything seems normal, but only in the respect of gender”), fundamental rights are to be extended just as for those who are “born blind, deaf, dwarf or deaf-mute”. These rights are, however, able to be limited, according to the Supreme Court ruling, if they amount to “incitement to an offence, or on any act which may be contrary to decent public behaviour or morality”. The inclusion of LGBTIs in the liberal, legal paradigm is, then, at once empowering but also disciplining, with all defiant, deviant, anarchic or other radical potentials of homosexual desire being repudiated. As such, homosexuality becomes a “condition” – an understanding that is, in the end, transformative neither for the homosexual nor for the heterosexual mainstream.
Calling for a more historical understanding of the Supreme Court ruling in no way denies the significance of this victory for LGBTI people in Nepal. Needless to say, there are struggles that remain in various other arenas of society. Even so, the current reality in Nepal following the Supreme Court ruling makes it much more difficult to continue with older attitudes towards homosexuality. Political parties, for instance, are therefore rushing to attain a friendly tone in their respective manifestos. Of course, one cannot effectively measure the prospect this holds for Nepal – and, by extension, for all of Southasia – but at least our imaginations can begin to broaden. Court cases, after all, are not accurate representations of the myriad things that actually happen to people. Arguably, the kind of analysis that suspends everything – from state, liberalism and citizenship to identity – is also not reflecting the lived experiences of those on the ground. Yet, perhaps, this analytical distancing can also teach us new ways to think about ourselves, and others.
On 21 December 2007, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued a directive to the government “to formulate appropriate legislation or amend existing legislation” in order to end discrimination against the lesbian, bay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) community in the country. According to the ruling, “The fundamental rights set forth in the constitution and the human rights enshrined in the international human-rights treaties to which Nepal is a party, cannot be interpreted in a way that only heterosexual men and women can enjoy it … The State has the obligation to create such environment and formulate laws in that line.”
This historic ruling was in response to a writ petition filed in April 2007 by a coalition of local LGBTI groups, including the Blue Diamond Society, Mitini Nepal, Crusaid and Parichaya Samaj. The petition, which appealed to the state to “give citizenship ID for persons of third nature reflecting their gender identities” and to address the violence on the basis of sexual orientation, was eventually heard by the court a total of three times.
The significance of the Supreme Court ruling can be assessed by the fact that, just two months later, affiliates of the Blue Diamond Society feel that incidents of violence and discrimination have already diminished. LGBTI members in Nepal can now pursue jobs, access public services and travel as the “third gender” if they so choose. Political parties and civil-society organisations have begun openly advocating LGBTI rights and inclusion. There has even cropped up the expectation of LGBTI representation in electoral politics. In the ensuing months, the Supreme Court will also deliberate on the right to same-sex marriage, having directed the government to form a committee to look into the issue.
Against the order of nature?
Homosexual relations are criminalised in every country in Southasia except Nepal. In the majority of these countries, this criminalisation is based on the colonial-era Indian Penal Code (IPC), drafted by the British in 1860 and subsequently introduced across the Empire. Section 377 of the IPC has remained in place in many former colonies, including Bangladesh, Burma, India and Pakistan. It states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Besides this colonial vestige, homosexuality is also prohibited in some countries in the region under various interpretations of Islamic Sharia laws, or under a combination of the two. Here is a quick glimpse at the legal status of homosexuality
Criminal law in Afghanistan functions under the Penal Code of 1976, which was restored after the American invasion of 2001. Article 427 of the penal code sentences an individual who engages in sodomy with either a man or a woman “to a lengthened imprisonment in accordance with the circumstance”. However, Sharia law is also accepted within the Afghan legal framework and, in certain situations and locations – with issues related to blasphemy and in the informal tribal/local courts favoured by many Afghans – Sharia takes precedence over the civil code. Individual judges retain a fair amount of discretion, and punishments prescribed by the penal code and Sharia for homosexual relations are often at variance with each other, resulting in a lack of standardised, across-the-board penalties.
Under Section 377 of the civil penal code, homosexual sex acts are crimes punishable with deportation, fines and/or up to 10 years in jail, though some people have also received life imprisonment. The national law itself is rarely enforced, but there have been incidents of harassment by vigilante groups and the issuance of local fatwas against the LGBT community. In certain situations, Sharia law also influences the sentences imposed for same-sex relations.
Under Article 213 of Bhutan’s penal code, an individual who engages in “sexual conduct that is against the order of nature” is guilty of the crime of “unnatural sex”. Article 214 deems “unnatural sex” a petty misdemeanour, for which punishment ranges from between a month to a year in prison. Reportedly, there have been no cases of anyone being charged under this law.
Same-sex relations are illegal in Burma under Section 377 of the penal code. Punishment ranges from between 10 years to life in prison, along with a fine. Due to the nature of the military regime, there is no information available on the incidence of prosecution in the country.
“Unnatural sex” is criminalised under Section 377. Punishment ranges from 10 years to life imprisonment, although prosecution is rare and there have been no convictions during the last two decades. Since October 2006, the Delhi High Court has been reconsidering a Public Interest Litigation petition to read down Section 377.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Maldives under the Sharia. Punishment for adults is 19-39 lashes and one to three years banishment or jail time. The penalty for an adult engaging in same-sex relations with someone younger than 16 is 19-39 lashes and three to six years banishment or jail time. Those considered ‘accessories’ to homosexual sex relations can get between 16 months and three years in jail.
Nepal is the only country in Southasia that does not criminalise same-sex relations. On 21 December 2007, the Supreme Court issued directive orders to the government to end discrimination against sexual minorities and to ensure equal rights.
Same-sex relations are illegal in Pakistan under Section 377, punishable by two to 10 years in prison. Islamic law, reintroduced in 1990, punishes homosexuality with up to 100 lashes or death by stoning. Similar to the situation in Afghanistan, the principles of Islamic law are incorporated, at least in theory, into the Pakistani civil code. In situations in which there is an overlap between secular and Sharia law, judges make decisions based on personal inclination.
Homosexuality is illegal in Sri Lanka under section 365a of the penal code. The section only applied to male same-sex relations until 1995, when it was made ‘gender neutral’. For adults (over 18 years of age), punishment is imprisonment for a maximum of two years, a fine or both. However, no one has been prosecuted for 50 years.
Sodomy was decriminalised in China during 1997, and homosexuality was officially removed as a mental illness from the Chinese Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Mental Disorders. There are no explicit laws against homosexuality or same-sex relations, though there are also no laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, either. While Buddhism frowns upon homosexual sexual relations, the Dalai Lama, during a meeting in 1997 with lesbian and gay Buddhists, advocated the full recognition of human rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation. Though he did not sanction homosexuality outright, he stated that a social endorsement of same-sex relations “has to be judged in the context of the society itself and the laws and social norms”
May 8, 2008 – Gay City News, New York
Nepal’s First Gay MP Speak: Nation’s Two Largest Political Parties Embrace LGBT Rights
by Doug Ireland
In an historic breakthrough, the leader of Nepal’s largest LGBT group, the Blue Diamond Society, has been named to a seat in the parliament following April 10 elections in that nation, the largely mountainous home to some 30 million people. Sunil Pant, 35, a Belarus-educated computer engineer who founded the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) in 2002 and has been its executive director ever since, was named to the parliament by the tiny Communist Party-(United). The CPN-(U) won the right to have five seats in the new constituent assembly under a complicated proportional representation system used in the elections, the first since Nepal, long an autocratic monarchy, declared itself a "People’s Republic" last December following a 2006 peace deal that ended a decade-long civil war. The party is one of five separate and competing Communist parties to have gained seats in the 601-seat parliament in last month’s elections, with the largest being the Communist Party of Nepal-(Maoist) — which led the armed insurgency against King Gyanendra (left) and his late brother Birendra, who preceded him — won 220 seats, and is expected to lead a coalition government yet to be formed.
The elections saw another first — ten LGBT candidates for the parliament who are BDS members were in the running and "the number of votes we received exceeded our expectations, which is why the CPN-(U) chose me as a member of the constituent assembly," Pant told me from the country’s capital of Kathmandu. Eight of those candidates were metis, born as male and transgendered who dress and live as women — "third genders" as Pant calls them — and two were gay men, he said. "Most of the CPN-(U) party have indicated their support for LGBT rights, and it was very happy to send an openly gay man to parliament. And there are also many good individuals in the parliament with whom we have worked in the past," Pant added.
Nepal is 80 percent Buddhist, and traditional society there has significant social rigidities and discrimination based on caste and gender. In the past, Nepalese police frequently used violence against gays and the metis and subjected them to arrest on various trumped-up charges. Under the monarchy, a law forbade "unnatural" sex. Until last year Maoist cadres also hunted down, intimidated, and used violence against sexual minorities, particularly the metis, including a campaign to ask landlords not to rent to them. Maoist leaders used incendiary rhetoric to denounce homosexuals as "unnatural" and for "polluting" society. The military commander of the Maoist militia in western Nepal, who was also a minister in the interim government that followed the 2006 peace accord, proclaimed that "homosexuality is a product of capitalism" and that "there were no homosexuals in the Soviet Union" (the Maoists displayed portraits of Stalin along with Mao at their campaign rallies). (See this reporter’s earlier article, "Nepal’s Maoist Assault on Gays," which appeared in the April 19-25, 2007 issue of Gay City News.)
But, Pant told me, "There has been a significant change in the Maoist attitude toward sexual and gender minorities. I and the BDS had many meetings, dialogues, and orientations with several parties, including the Maoists. And this year, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Nepali Congress Party [the second-largest party in the constituent assembly], and the Communist Party-(United) all included LGBT rights in their election manifestos." Pant identified a 2004 incident as a critical turning point in public opinion. A policeman forced one of the metis to perform oral sex on him and then slit her throat. Even conservative Nepalese who didn’t approve of homosexuality or sexually transgressive behavior of any kind were horrified by the gratuitously cruel violence.
At a BDS-led protest a few days later, police arrested 39 of the LGBT group’s members, leading to sympathetic media coverage for the movement, a denunciation by Human Rights Watch, and international outrage. But the real breakthrough came last December, when Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled on a lawsuit brought by the BDS and three other groups challenging the law against "unnatural" sex and demanding equal rights and an end to discrimination for LGBT people. In its ruling, the court declared that sexual minorities were "natural persons" deserving of protection against discrimination, and ordered the government to come up with legislation guaranteeing civil rights for homosexuals. The court also ordered that a government commission be established to study the legalization of same-sex marriage, and to make official documents like identification cards and passports include a third option for a person’s gender.
Since last year’s unprecedented court ruling, "violence has been reduced against LGBT people, and many police have become much less brutal than before in treating us," Pant told this reporter. Pant and the BDS were given last year’s Felipa de Souza Award by the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) for their courageous and effective work to end anti-LGBT discrimination and fight the spread of HIV/ AIDS. Pant now directs a BDS that has more than 50 full-time staffers, funded entirely by donations and grants, and there are now ten other officially registered groups serving Nepal’s queer community.
Pant and the BDS will now focus their energies on including pro-LGBT measures in the country’s new constitution, which the just-elected parliament is preparing. A two-day "national consultation of sexual minorities" sponsored by the BDS and held in Kathmandu concluded its work on May 6 by voting to issue a list of demands, among them — "affirmative action" to "guarantee fundamental rights including education, health, and employment for our sexual minority," "legal provisions for marriage between homosexuals and third genders," "equal paternal property rights," and "laws against sexual exploitation and sexual violence of lesbians, gays, and third genders, and proper compensation for its victims."
The conference also demanded that "lesbian and third gender women should be included in the 33 per cent of seats" in parliament reserved for women.
May 29, 2008 – The New York Times
Nepal Reborn as a Republic
by Somini Sengupta
New Delhi – The world’s last Hindu king, Gyanendra of Nepal, was told to step down from his throne in 15 days, as a newly elected assembly led by former Maoist guerrillas voted late Wednesday to transform the country into a republic. The vote by the special assembly, elected last month, formalizes the steady dissolution of the 239-year-old monarchy in Nepal. But exactly when and how the king would leave Narayanhity, the main palace in the capital, Katmandu, was not clear. Gyanendra has made no public statements in recent weeks about his plans, though suspected royalists have made their disappointment known by setting off small bombs in Katmandu. Three went off Wednesday, injuring no one. On Tuesday a blast injured six; a royalist organization called Ranabir Sena claimed responsibility.
Government officials in recent days have urged the king, a businessman with interests in tobacco and hotels, to move out of the pink concrete Narayanhity and into his own high-walled private residence nearby — or face eviction by force. Gyanendra took over the throne after a palace massacre in June 2001 in which his brother, King Birendra, and most of the royal family were killed. Crown Prince Dipendra, who shot himself and soon died, was blamed for the massacre. Gyanendra’s family survived. Gyanendra took control of the government in early 2005, but lost most of his authority two years ago when street protests forced him to cede power to the last elected government. Maoist insurgents came out of the jungle after 10 years of war, turned themselves into politicians and demanded an end to the monarchy.
The government, which they joined, complied. It removed the king as head of the Nepalese Army, dropped the word “royal” from the name of the national airline and drafted a new national anthem that no longer demanded allegiance to the throne. Last year, under pressure from the Maoists, Parliament voted to declare Nepal, a nation of 27 million people wedged strategically between India and China, a federal democratic republic. It left it up to the Constituent Assembly, as the new body is known, to take the final, official step: to rewrite the Constitution altogether, starting with the question of the monarchy. It seems all but certain that the assembly will scrap it.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won more than a third of the assembly’s 601 seats, becoming the largest party in it. The party’s leader, who still goes by his nom de guerre, Prachanda (“the fierce one” in Nepali), is expected to take over as Nepal’s prime minister. The Constituent Assembly, which was sworn in on Tuesday, will also have to govern Nepal for up to two years while it drafts a constitution. That will not be easy. Chief among the challenges facing Nepal, as it tries to seal a peace process, is the fate of 20,000 former Maoist fighters, who are currently in camps under United Nations supervision. The Maoist leadership wants them to be integrated into the military, but it is likely to face stiff resistance from the Nepalese Army and the other main parties. “There are many other peace process commitments as yet unfulfilled,” the United Nations’ chief envoy to Nepal, Ian Martin, told reporters on Tuesday. For now, the country’s three largest parties agreed this week to turn Narayanhity Palace into a national museum once the king vacates it.
June 09, 2008 – The Jakarta Post
Asian gay, transgender groups fight for their rights
by Irawaty Wardany, Denpasar
(Bali) Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups in Asia have agreed to develop an international network to advocate protection of their rights in their respective countries and at the regional level. Bali hosted a conference of the groups from June 2 to 6 in the tourism enclave Nusa Dua. The conference was attended by 21 participants from eight countries — Indonesia, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China and Thailand. "We agreed to make some kind of international network to advocate protection of LGBT rights in our countries," Rido Triawan, head of Arus Pelangi, an Indonesian non-governmental organization that fights for LGBT rights, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. He said it would be like an open communication channel connecting LGBY communities in different countries, so that when there was a problem in one country the communities could work in unison to apply political pressure on the government in question.
Generally, Rido said, LGBT communities in Asia faced similar problems. "We are all at this time suffering from stigmatization, discrimination, persecution from religious groups and discriminative government regulations," he said. "For example, the 2004 regional regulation in Palembang, South Sumatra, categorizes LGBT as a form of prostitution," Rido said.
He said religious-based persecution was the most difficult problem LGBT groups faced in Indonesia. "Those religious doctrines are then being integrated into the formal education curriculum. Naturally, the curriculum educates the students that the only ‘normal’ and accepted sexual orientation is heterosexuality," he said. Consequently, other sexual orientations are considered as not "normal" and unacceptable. This has resulted in students and communities discriminating against members of the homosexual and transgender community. "There are many cases of discrimination experienced by members of the LGBT community. One example involved a man who openly acknowledged his sexual orientation of being gay. Suddenly, his company fired him for no apparent reason," Rido said.
He said other gay workers faced varying levels of hostility from co-workers. "They suddenly keep a distance or, even worse, socially isolate him just because he is gay," he said. He said upholding the rights of the LGBT community was a significant issue since sexual orientation was also part of human rights. Rido said the LGBT community in Indonesia just wanted to be acknowledged and treated the same as the other Indonesian citizens, who enjoyed the right to education, health, work and all the other basic human rights. "It is still very hard for people to accept the fact that LGBT are also human beings, who should be treated humanely," said Arus Pelangi secretary general, Yuli Rustinawati.
A Sri Lankan LGBT activist, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, said the situation in Sri Lanka was worse than in Indonesia. "Being part of LGBT communities in Sri Lanka is similar to committing a criminal offense. That’s the reason why people with LGBT sexual orientation prefer to be invisible," she said. She said members of the LGBT community in her country who fell victim to criminal acts often didn’t report their cases to the police, because the treatment they would receive could be worse than the perpetrators of the criminal acts. She said she participated in LGBT conferences and seminars around the world to learn about human rights instruments that could be used to advance the struggle in her country.
June 23 2008 – APRainbow
Nepali Third Genders not Equal Citizens of Nepal
It is a matter of grave concern that the Government of Nepal continues not to respect Nepali third genders as equal citizens of Nepal. Like many marginalized and voiceless Nepali people, homosexuals and third genders fought against autocracy and took to the streets for democracy during the 2nd people’s popular movement in Nepal in 2006. Now democracy has prevailed in Nepal and Nepal has become a Federal Democratic Republic but many homosexuals (person attracted to same gender) still remain without any rights and many third genders (persons different than man and women) are either compelled to carry a wrong citizenship ID or are denied any recognition as citizens of Nepal at all. Many sexual and gender minorities still face violence, abuse and rape. Many sexual and gender minorities are excluded from education, employment and health care. There is not a single overt sexual or gender minority person that holds any government position and when found that any person is of a sexual/gender minority, the person is immediately expelled from the job. An example of this is last year when Bhakti Shah was fired from the Nepal Army for being sexual/gender minority after serving with full responsibility for 4 years as physical training officer in Nepal Army training center, Kharipati, Bhaktapur.
In the past 8 years many sexual and gender minority communities throughout Nepal have started organizing themselves for equal rights, social justice and recognition as equal citizens of Nepal. Blue Diamond Society, believing in a peaceful struggle, filed the writ petition against the government in April 2007. In 21 December 2007 Supreme Court of Nepal made historic decision ordering the Government of Nepal to recognize third gender according to their gender identity and protect sexual and gender minority rights as natural persons. But the current government, which enjoys the power because of the many marginalized people who risked their lives and/or were killed during the 2nd people’s popular movement, is not paying any attention to the most marginalized and voiceless community of sexual and gender minorities. Rather the government continues ridiculing our dignity, true identity and rights.
Sexual and Gender Minorities applied for true citizenship ID personally in many CDO offices and Blue Diamond Society has also issued direct request to the Home Ministry to make the law so that third genders can get their Citizenship ID according to their gender identity, but there has been no response to date. Just two weeks ago sexual and gender minorities launched a hunger strike demanding their Citizenship ID. The hunger strike was postponed for a period of one month after hearing (a promise to support us)from the Home Minister through his special envoy, Prhalad Giri. Now Rina Tamang; a third gender (who was born as a female 25 years ago in Sunsari District), applied for her citizenship ID and requested to be issued ID as a Third Gender; denied and forced to take citizenship ID identified as a MAN.
In many districts many third genders are denied Citizenship ID as the officer tells us: "We can only issue Citizenship ID to men and women and you are neither man nor woman but third genders and we have no authority from the home ministry to issue citizenship ID to third genders". As a result many third genders remain without any recognition as a citizen of Nepal. This kind of discrimination from the state against third genders is shameful, where, with due process, even foreigners are issued Citizenship ID but our own third genders are denied of Citizenship. We denounce the government continuously ridiculing Nepali third genders and demand immediate policy formulation so that third genders are no longer denied their Citizenship ID.
Constituent Assembly Member of Nepal
Nepal Citizenship Under ‘Third Gender’
Pokhara,Nepal – The local administration issued a citizenship certificate to a transgender person under a "third" gender category, Monday. Bishnu Adhikari, 21, of Dhikurpokhari VDC ward-9 in Kaski district, was issued such an ID as per a Supreme Court verdict handed down last year, said administrative officer at the District Administration Office Taranath Adhikari, who issued the citizenship. The Apex Court handed down its verdict on December 21 last year, thus allowing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to obtain citizenship certificates and avail of other rights at par with other citizens of the country.
This is the second time such an ID has been issued after Chanda Musalman of Banke district got a citizenship certificate with "male and female" mentioned under the gender category in January last year. "I’m a daughter biologically, " said an upbeat Bishnu Adhikari Thursday, adding, "But socially, I’m a son. Right from my childhood I started putting on pants and other boy’s clothing instead of girl’s garb like skirts."
According to Adhikari, it was very difficult to get such a certificate. "Even the VDC secretary was first reluctant to recommend me as a third gender person. However, I insisted and finally got it." When asked about this, Chief District Officer Baliram Prasad Singh denied having any information. "I’m looking into the details as to who issued such a citizenship as there has been no such directive from the Home Ministry."
Officer Adhikari, however, insisted that he issued the certificate as per the Supreme Court verdict. "I gave it as I understand that a court order is as good as the law." Meanwhile, Blue Diamond Society, an organization working for the rights of LGBTs, hailed the Kaski DAO’s decision on issuing such a certificate. "This is a landmark decision for sexual and gender minorities in Nepal after the Supreme Court verdict," a press statement read.
September 23, 2008 – Daily Queer News
A Solitary Voice for Gay Rights in Nepal
by Tilak Pokharel, International Herald Tribune
Sunil Babu Pant likes to take advantage of the frequent delays at Nepal’s newly elected Constituent Assembly. As the only openly gay member of the assembly, he takes every opportunity to work on his homophobic colleagues, trying to persuade them that contrary to what they were taught growing up in this very conservative country, homosexuals are just like any other people.
Pant, 35, and a computer engineer by training, opens his laptop – an object of fascination to many in the assembly, who come from the rural hinterlands – and gives a PowerPoint presentation wherever he finds his audience. “Kalpanaji, come join me,” Pant said during a break recently to a fellow parliamentarian, Kalpana Rana, inside a tent that serves as a canteen. Other lawmakers, there to kill time, began to move closer to his laptop.
September 2008 – From Blue Diamond Society Kathmandu, Nepa
Nepal Government unveils budget inclusive of Sexual and Gender Minorities for the first Time in Nepal’s history
This is such a great news that for the first time in Nepal’s history the national budget have provision for sexual and gender minorities. Maoist led Government¢s finance minister Dr Babu Ram Bhattari just unveiled the budget today and the budget reads as
Paragraph 237 reads: The state will accord special priority to solve the core problems of Nepali people relating to sexual and gender minorities and a common house for 50 people will be provisioned to live together for their socialization.
This very symbolic but very positive change of not just attitudes but also helping marginalized and oppressed sexual and gender minorities towards ministering to the development and social/political change. We like to congratulate the Finance Minister Dr Babu Ram Bhhatari for making the budget inclusive and historic. Bravo!!! Dr Babu Ram!
Sunil Babu Pant
Member of constituent assembly and parliament Nepal
October 18, 2008 – Action Beauty and Brains blog for Nepal
Welcome to the Action Beauty and Brains blog. This blog is dedicated to the Beauty and Brains in Action Tackling HIV/AIDs Stigma and Discrimination Talent Contest taking place in this Nepal this fall and the documentary we are making about the Contest.
Here is a bit of background about the show: Federation of Sexual and Gender Minorities Nepal are running the Beauty and the Brains Talent Show. It is about bringing awareness to this mainly hidden population in regards to HIV and AIDs prevention. It also aims to educate the wider population about the MSM and transgender communities through entertainment rather than directly challenge their prejudices. Contestants are individuals from transgender (Metis) communities in Nepal.
They will present performances highlighting HIV/AIDS and sexuality related stigma and discrimination. This programme is particularly relevant to Metis, the most marginalised of the communities, as they traditionally have survived by dancing at marriages and other celebrations in Nepal and elsewhere in South Asia. There will be 5 regional contests leading to a national final. Winners of all events will be appointed Ambassadors in Action to carry out anti-stigma and discrimination activities in their region and, in the case of the overall winner, nationally. They will be recognized by UNAIDS, World Bank and NCASC (National Centre for AIDS and STD Control).
October 15, 2008 – fridae.com
A sexy first in Nepal
by Douglas Sanders
The Blue Diamond Society in Nepal breaks new ground in LGBT publishing. Doug Sanders, fresh from a BDS conference, reports on an unique tabloid designed to deliver LGBTI news to an mainstream audience.
How to get the LGBTI message across? The Blue Diamond Society (BDS) in Nepal published its own newsletter. Maybe members liked it. But it was not getting the message across to the wider public. What to do? Nepali English language newspapers love Hollywood celebrity gossip. They regularly cover hot news about Britney and Madonna. Lesson number one: this is how you sell newspapers in Nepal.
The second lesson was world famous in countries with strong ties to Britain. Go to www.page3.com and you will see photos of lovely ladies, too naked to appear in Singapore’s Straits Times, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post or Nepali newspapers. The photos, on the notorious PAGE 3, made The Sun, a London tabloid, one of the most profitable newspapers on the planet. Learning these lessons, Subash Pokharel, working with the Blue Diamond Society, started a new English-language weekly entertainment tabloid for Nepal. It’s called PAGE 6. Apparently everyone in Nepal gets the meaning of the title – though it had to be explained to me. The first issue was launched in August, 2007.
PAGE 6 has no official connection with BDS. But it lists Sunil Pant as “Patron and Advisor”. Sunil is the founder of the Blue Diamond Society, and now the first ‘out’ LGBTI person to be elected to national office in Asia. Sunil and BDS have become famous in LGBT circles. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in the US, gave BDS its Felipa de Souza award in 2007. But his fame has spread outside our circles. In September the New York Times ran an interview with Sunil, and a handsome photograph. Foreign media are fascinated by the surprising success of BDS. Nepal, of all places! With its history of insurgency and a Maoist led government!
Sunil was a party-list candidate for the Communist Party of Nepal (United) – which is different than the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified), which in turn is different than the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). It is the Maoists who won the most seats in the election and lead the coalition government. China, by the way, refuses to recognise that they are “Maoist.” As in the Indian state of West Bengal, Communist does not mean old-style communist. But links to the old Soviet Union are littered around. Sunil himself studied engineering in Belarus, and the head of his party studied years earlier in Moscow. Three parties in the election supported LGBTI rights in their party platforms – the Maoists, the Congress and the CPN (United).
Back to PAGE 6. Embedded in PAGE 6 is page 4, the page dedicated to “gender talk” and “diversity” – a weekly dose of LGBTI news and comment. PAGE 6 gets page 4 across to a broad Nepali audience. In the year that PAGE 6 has been published, all the covers have been pop celebrities – except for one. When the BDS won a major court case in December, 2007, that story went on the cover. Circulation did not drop. The next week sexy celebrities returned to page one. PAGE 6 is the first English language entertainment weekly in Nepal. Currently 5,000 copies are printed. Distribution is mainly in the central Kathmandu valley. It makes a bit of a profit. It’s unique in the world as a gay-initiated mainstream tabloid designed to package LGBTI news.
November 8, 2008 – thaindian.com
Nepal’s gay MP crusades for India’s sexual minorities
Kathmandu, (IANS) Nepal’s first out-of-the-closet gay lawmaker, who founded the sexual minority rights movement in the conservative Himalayan nation, has now taken up cudgels on behalf of Indian peers, following reports of a crackdown on sexual minorities in India’s Bangalore city.Sunil Babu Pant, who became the first openly gay member of Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly this year and whose gay rights organisation Blue Diamond Society has the support of British rock icon Elton John, has urged Karnataka authorities to protect its sexual minorities. He has asked Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, Indian ministers, police officials as well as the Karnataka Human Rights Commission to protect the eunuch community of Bangalore from “intense and targeted harassment” by police.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), have also been sent copies of the Nepal MP’s letter of protest that draws unflattering parallels between India and its tiny neighbour Nepal. “Nepal used to face such violence from security forces against sexual and gender minorities,” wrote Pant, whose Blue Diamond Society began its work in Nepal five years ago fighting legal cases for gays and transgenders beaten up by police and molested inside prison. But (now) democracy has prevailed in Nepal. Last year, the Supreme Court ordered the government of Nepal to recognise gays, lesbians, bisexuals and third genders as natural persons.”
Pant also said incidents of violence have now reduced dramatically in Nepal and the first Maoist government this year included in the budget – for the first time – a support programme for sexual and gender minorities. “It is sad that in India, the largest democracy in the world, the most marginalised and oppressed ones face such violence from state party itself,” Pant wrote to the Indian authorities. The protest came after five eunuchs were last month arrested and taken to Bangalore’s Girinagar police station. There, they were allegedly beaten up and later charged, allegedly falsely, with extortion.
Pant and his organisation were informed of the incident by Sangama, an Indian human rights organisation working with eunuchs and other sexual minorities on issues of their rights and health for the past 10 years. The NGO says when it tried to approach the police, its members were abused, detained and accused of rioting and obstruction. When the incident triggered a protest by human rights activists and lawyers from various groups, the protesters were also reportedly attacked by policemen and charged with various offences.
“We are shocked at the callous attitude of the Bangalore police force, in not only physically assaulting the arrested hijras (eunuchs), but also the Sangama crisis team members, and the representatives of various trade union and other human rights organisations,” Pant wrote. According to sexual minorities rights organisations, assaults on eunuchs and sex workers in Bangalore have been on the increase in the last few months. Pant said they smacked of an “organised and systematic crackdown”.
“In the eyes of law, all citizens have equal rights, irrespective of their religion, language, gender identity, sexual preference or employment,” the Nepali MP has told the Indian authorities. “Therefore the targeted attack by the police on any particular community, whatever be the reason, is against the law that your government is mandated to uphold. We hope that you will take urgent necessary measures to ensure justice to the victims and stop such incidents from happening again.”
November 17, 2008 – PinkNews
Nepal’s highest court confirms full rights for LGBT people
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A Nepali MP has said his "eyes were filled with tears" when he read the full written decision of the country’s Supreme Court on a writ petition from four organisations representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people. A summary decision was issued in December 2007, when the court issued directive orders to the Nepal government to ensure the right to life according to their own identities and introduce laws providing equal rights to LGBTIs and amend all the discriminatory laws.
The final judgement was issued today. It reiterates that all LGBTIs are defined as a "natural person" and their physical growth as well as sexual orientation, gender identity, expression are all part of natural growing process. Thus equal rights, identity and expression must be ensured regardless of their sex at birth. The writ petition was filed by Blue Diamond Society and other 3 LGBTI organisations in Nepal demanding the protection and defence of the equal rights of sexual and gender minorities.
"Reading this decision my eyes were filled with tears and I felt we are the most proud LGBTI citizens of Nepal in the world," said Sunit Pant, Nepal’s only gay MP. "A legal note of point has been raised for the new constitution of Nepal while ensuring the equal rights to individuals, like the bill of tights from South Africa, and non-discrimination provisions on the grounds of sexual orientations and gender identities must be introduced."
The Court has also issued a directive order to form a seven-member committee, with a doctor appointed by Health Ministry, one representative from National Human rights commission, the Law Ministry, one socialist appointed by government of Nepal, a representative from the Nepal police, a representative from Ministry of Population and Environment and one advocate as a representative from the LGBTI community, to conduct a study into the other countries’ practice on same-sex marriage. Based on its recommendation the government will introduce a same-sex marriage bill. Mr Pant, founder of Blue Diamond Society, was named in May as one of five representatives of the Communist Party of Nepal-United in the 601 member new constituent assembly.
The Maoists are the largest party with 220 seats. Maoist insurgents, who fought a ten-year guerrilla war against monarchist forces at a cost of over 12,000 lives, finally signed a peace agreement with the new democratic government in November 2006. LGBT people joined the Maoist rebels and others to protest in a democracy movement against the king, demanding a freely elected, secular government. King Gyanendra eventually relinquished sovereign power to the civilian government and elections were finally held for a new assembly on 10th April.
Gays and lesbians in the Himalayan kingdom previously suffered persistent persecution from security forces during the absolutist rule of King Gyanendra. The harassment of lesbian, gay and trans people continued at the hands of Maoist rebels. The assembly will draft a new constitution, decide the fate of the monarchy and govern Nepal for the next two years. Mr Pant is a hero to many gay activists across the world. On a visit to India last week he said:
“We have moved from being a marginalised and persecuted lot who were thrown out of homes, schools and jobs to people who have human rights and are now protected by the police, the same people who once harassed us. In Nepal, the LGBTI communities were part of the campaign for garnering votes for the Communist Party of Nepal. They approached me to campaign and I managed to secure 15,500 votes. It makes a statement that LGBTI people are interested in matters of politics and governance and not just sex. The campaign not only gave LGBTI issues visibility but a platform to negotiate for rights. It is one thing to clean up the city and stop transgenders from begging but one must provide them with alternative means of living. India is a very big country and a single strategy may not work. However, I’m sure it won’t be long before a political party will tap the LGBTI vote bank¯there are millions of untapped votes.”
In May 2007 the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission gave its Celebration of Courage award to Mr Pant.
December 11, 2008 – PinkNews
Nepal to support LGBT rights statement at UN
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The Prime Minister of Nepal has instructed his country’s UN Ambassador to support an oral statement on the universal rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The statement will be read out at the UN General Assembly next week. Sunil Pant, a gay righs activist and Nepalese MP, said he was proud that his country is "taking a lead to advance LGBT rights internationally." Nepal joins more than 50 countries that are supporting the statement, originally proposed by France and backed by all other EU member states.
The statement "reaffirms the principle of universality of human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1, which proclaims that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." It condemns homophobic and transphobic violence and "urges States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention." More than 90 countries criminalise same-sex relationships. In nine states or provinces of states gays and sometimes lesbians face the death penalty. Mr Pant, founder of Blue Diamond Society, was named in May as one of five representatives of the Communist Party of Nepal-United in the 601 member new constituent assembly.
The Maoists are the largest party with 220 seats. Maoist insurgents, who fought a ten-year guerrilla war against monarchist forces at a cost of over 12,000 lives, finally signed a peace agreement with the new democratic government in November 2006. LGBT people joined the Maoist rebels and others to protest in a democracy movement against the king, demanding a freely elected, secular government. King Gyanendra eventually relinquished sovereign power to the civilian government and elections were finally held for a new assembly on 10th April.
Gays and lesbians in the Himalayan kingdom previously suffered persistent persecution from security forces during the absolutist rule of King Gyanendra. The harassment of lesbian, gay and trans people continued at the hands of Maoist rebels. Nepal’s Supreme Court recently ruled that all LGBTIs are defined as a "natural person" and their physical growth as well as sexual orientation, gender identity, expression are all part of natural growing process. Thus equal rights, identity and expression must be ensured regardless of their sex at birth. The writ petition was filed by Blue Diamond Society and other 3 LGBTI organisations in Nepal demanding the protection and defence of the equal rights of sexual and gender minorities.
19 December 2008 – Bhutan Observer
How gay are Bhutanese gays?
Article 213 in Chapter 14 of the Penal Code of Bhutan states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of unnatural sex, if the defendant engages in sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature” Does unnatural sex, which is graded as a petty misdemeanour, include homosexuality? How rife is homosexuality in Bhutan? Observer’s Phuntsho Wangmo delves into these questions and more.
Homosexuality is still a taboo topic in modern Bhutan. Whenever there is talk of the subject most people ask, “Are there gays in Bhutan?” Many Bhutanese people still have shocked expressions on their faces when there are any discussions about homosexuality. But more shocking is that even the educated are ignorant about the fact that there is a gay population in Bhutan. Letro is a young man with a normal career and friends. He has the same interests as any young man. But he is exclusively gay. And, since it is not accepted in society he is secretive about his sexual orientation. “Bhutanese society thinks of it as abnormal behaviour” he said. According to him, there are gays in Thimphu, ranging from the young to the old and the married.
“My friends told me I was stupid for talking openly with the media” said Letro. “They don’t want to come out in the open because they are afraid that they might lose their family and friends” he added. Most of the gays Letro knew refused to even give comments for fear of being identified if their identity was not kept secret, despite promises that their names would not be revealed. According to a legal expert, the term “unnatural” sex, as mentioned in the Penal Code of Bhutan, has not been defined yet. Most people are confused about what exactly falls under the term.
Internet sites mention Bhutan as a country where there is a law against homosexuals with imprisonment ranging from a month to a year. But because there is no precise information on this subject, there are diverse reports that confuse and mislead. But legal experts say there have been no cases of homosexuals being imprisoned in Bhutan to date. Even Letro was hesitant to talk at first because he thought that homosexuality was punished in Bhutan.
According to science, sexual orientation (including homosexuality and bisexuality) is the result of a combination of environmental, emotional, hormonal, and biological factors. Also, being homosexual or bisexual does not mean the person is mentally ill or abnormal in some way. In most societies, people who are against homosexuality often call it “unnatural”. But homosexual behaviour exists even among animals. The Oslo Natural History Museum also had an exhibition in 2006 on homosexuality among animals entitled “Against Nature?” It said that homosexuality has been observed among 1,500 species, and that the behaviour has been well documented in 500 of those species.
Homosexuality may be termed “unnatural” but, to gays, it is normal. According to a psychiatrist at the national referral hospital in Thimphu, Dr. Damber Kumar Nirola, no homosexual has ever come to the hospital to consult or seek counselling. There was only one case of a man from Paro with Gender Identity Disorder who did come for counselling. Gender Identity Disorder is a disorder in which one experiences discomfort with one’s own sex and desires to live as a member of the opposite sex. Homosexuals, on the other hand, nearly always identify with their own sex. “It is an individual’s choice. We have to respect their rights. As long as they do not victimise anybody,” said Dr. Nirola. According to him, sometimes people become homosexuals because of circumstances. It does not mean that they are abnormal.
Male homosexuality has been known to exist in certain restricted environments such as monk dormitories and army barracks. Like most younger people today, Deki, a young working woman, feels homosexuality is acceptable. “People should not make fun or pass comments at gays. Times have changed and society should accept them as even they have the right to live their life the way they want to,” she said. As for Letro, he has plans of settling abroad where he can live openly with the fact that he is a homosexual instead of having to pretend that he is heterosexual, which is what he must do here in Bhutan.
Gay marriages – the politically correct term being “same sex unions” – have been legalised in such countries as South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and Spain. As for Bhutan, gaydom is still a shadowy realm found in chat rooms and gay websites. Till the time Bhutanese society accepts and respects gays in our society, gays will always remain silent and secretive. And people will continue to ask over and over again, “Are there gays in Bhutan?”