Gay Nepal News & Reports 2011

1 Human Rights Plan of Government Includes LGBT Rights 1/11

2 Nepal aims to tap valuable gay tourist market 1/11

3 Sunil B Pant’s speech on civil society hearing on HIV 4/11

4 Third gender issued citizenship certificate 4/11

5 Transgender Nepalis Perform Traditional Wedding Blessing for Royal Couple 4/11

6 Nepalese census includes category for ‘third gender’ 5/11

7 South Asia’s First Gay Temple Wedding 6/11

8 LGBTs may face 16 years jail … 6/11

9 Hundreds rally in Nepal for sexual rights 8/11

10 Nepal census recognizes third gender for the first time 8/11

11 Third gender for Nepal? 9/11

12 Bureaucracy in Nepal Leads to HIV Deaths 10/11

13 Unpaid AIDS workers in Nepal ‘turn to prostitution’ 10/11

14 Sexual and Gender Minorities With HIV Face Double Stigma 10/11

14a Nepal Is Emerging As Asia’s Pioneer In Rights For LGBT 11/11

15 Shooting finishes on first gay Nepalese film Snow Flowers 11/11

January 6, 2011 – Sunil Pant

Human Rights Plan of Government Includes LGBT Rights

This is to share you all the good news recently endorsed and published by prime minister’s office and ministerial council of Nepal government’s. The new three-year National Human Rights Work plan 2011-2014 includes sexual and gender minorities rights program.

The Progarm reads as follows: "Identification and establishing acceptance of individuals from Sexual and gender minority community."
The activities reads as follows: "Conduct 10 origination seminars on 10 districts about Identification and establishing acceptance of Sexual and gender minority community."

The responsible ministry is the local development ministry office of each district development committee.

This is another milestone for the Nepali LGBTI (lesbian, gay bi, third-gender and inter-sex) communities and step forward by the Nepal government taking the lead to mainstream LGBTI rights in Nepal.

Sunil B Pant
MP, Nepal

January 9, 2011 – The Washington Post

After string of gay-friendly measures, Nepal aims to tap valuable tourist market

By Anup Kaphle and Habiba Nosheen – In Kathmandu, Nepal
For Courtney Mitchell, it was love at first sight when she arrived in Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1998. In June, Mitchell will return with her girlfriend, Sarah Welton, for a Hindu-inspired wedding and honeymoon.
"I thought if we could expose others in our lives to the transitioning landscape in terms of gay rights issues in Nepal, that would be amazing," said Mitchell, 40, who teaches psychology at the University of Denver. Attracting couples like Mitchell and Welton is part of Nepal’s plan to establish itself as the world’s newest gay tourism destination. As it begins to recover from a decade-long insurgency and a prolonged political stalemate, the country wants a share of the multibillion-dollar gay tourism market to boost its sliding economy.

Two years ago, Nepal became the first country in South Asia to decriminalize homosexuality, a move the government hoped would invite gay tourists to tie the knot and honeymoon in the Himalayas. Since then, the country’s Supreme Court has approved same-sex marriage, asking lawmakers to guarantee gays equal rights under the new constitution. Nepal now issues "third-gender" national ID cards and elected its first openly gay lawmaker to parliament, Sunil Babu Pant, in 2008. Now, the country is promoting Mount Everest as a destination for gay weddings. But many Nepalis oppose gay rights and the idea of gay tourism, and the government has had to act cautiously. The majority of Nepalis are Hindus who do not view homosexuality favorably.

During the insurgency, transgender men and women were regularly harassed and beaten by Maoists, and gays faced widespread harassment. Nepal, which used to be the only Hindu kingdom in the world, became a secular country in 2006. After the war ended, small ethnic and minority rights groups began demanding equality and power – and in the name of a secular and new republic, the country started passing laws against discrimination. Some members of Nepal’s gay community say they are still not comfortable opening up about their sexuality, citing discrimination from law enforcement and society. "They will call us names, and some of our members have even been raped," said Pradeep Khadka, a gay man who lives in Kathmandu, the capital.

Pant, who runs the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights organization, has been leading the tourism effort. He recently started Pink Mountain, a travel agency that offers vacation packages to gay and transgender tourists. A wedding and honeymoon package includes a two-week adventure in the country’s mountains and jungles. With much of the region hesitant to welcome gays, Pant sees an opportunity for Nepal. "As India and China are slowly emerging, gay groups are growing, and their courts are looking at homosexuality positively," he said. "If we wait another five years, they will take over."

Tourism, the key driver of Nepal’s economy, suffered a severe blow when the Maoist insurgency peaked in 2001. Attracting high-spending gay tourists is seen as one way to make up the lost revenue. "They spend a lot, and we want tourists in this country who will spend a lot," said Kishore Thapa, Nepal’s secretary of tourism. The country’s Tourism Board, which serves as a bridge between the government and the industry, is promoting travel packages for gays on the Web site for Nepal Tourism Year 2011.

According to the government’s annual report, tourism contributed about $372 million to the economy last year, from slightly more than 500,000 visitors. Officials are hoping to double that number by next year. But the government is leaving most of the outreach to gays to private companies. "There might be some elements within the society who negatively react or create some kind of obstructions to these tourists," Thapa said. "So we have to make some kind of a balance between our culture and tourism."

Pant said he can draw as many as 300,000 gay tourists, although he said his agency has only had a handful of bookings so far. And despite the changing attitudes toward gays, many Nepalis expressed unease with the initiative. "I don’t think our culture allows us to do such things so openly," said Dipendra Ghimire, who works at a hotel in Kathmandu. "I know countries like Thailand have been doing it, but for Nepal, I don’t think it is just appropriate." Pant dismissed concerns that the effort would transform Nepal into a sex tourism destination. "People think sexual minority communities are after sex all the time," he said. "If you can go to India, America or England, and I also travel to India, America and England, what makes you think that you go there for pilgrimage and I go there for sex?"

Reporting for this article was partially funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Habiba is freelance writer.

April 9, 2011 – sunil pant

Sunil B Pant’s speech on civil society hearing on HIV at the UN

Good morning, it’s a real honor to be here and speak at this importantcivil society hearing today. Uniting for universal access: towards zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths’, comes 30 years into the AIDS epidemic and just months ahead of a high-level meeting of the General Assembly in June on HIV Aids. I represent civil society and I represent government of Nepal and everything in between.

In Nepal, legalizing homosexuality and recognizing third genders by supreme court in 2007 not only led the dramatic reduction of violence against MSM/TG by security forces but the acceptance of LGBTI by families are growing, more and more MSM/TG are open about their sexuality and defying the forced hetero sexual marriage their families may be imposing on them, who are not heterosexual, Seeking information and health services around safe sex and HIV prevention and treatment if they are HIV positive. The crematoriums which were excluding MSM and Third-gender died with Aids to be cremated are now open to MSM/TG died with HIV/AIDS, at least ensuring death with dignity. And I must say here that many countries still criminalizing such communities and behaviors will not let us achieve zero discrimination. We must have universal de-criminalization. UN must recognize third-genders (or trans-genders).

We are in the process of drafting new constitution and the fundamental rights committee of constituent assembly of Nepal has come up with a set of draft fundamental rights including, non discrimination on the ground of sexual orientations and free primary health care that includes HIV treatment. Countries like Nepal moving forward with improving our constitutions and laws and even ready to commit more fund on HIV from within the countries.. We have probably the best UN general secretary ever who speaks out for marginalized, socially excluded populations and sees the important of greater focus and involvement of young people and push for these 3 excellent Zeros, but until the rich nations and fast growing economies commit enough fund for HIV treatment and HIV prevention programs we will not achieve zero aids related deaths, we will not achieve zero new infection and zero aids related death.

Now only about 6 millions in the south have access to treatment, there are over 13 million people waiting to be saved, despite knowing the fact that these lives can be saved, inaction by our rich nation’s government leaders, these lives are facing death that is caused by subtle attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings. And that is clearly crime against humanity. Let me remind the definition of crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum, "are particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. ‘

And, So today’s civil society hearing has great importance and we have important role to play to help our leaders from committing these crime against humanity and help them to join hands on saving lives . They can come up with any amount anytime, in the name of defense or in the name of saving banks or in the name of introducing democracy in other countries, why can’t they commit fund that save lives of millions?

Thank you very much.

Sunil B Pant
Member of Constituent Assembly and Parliament
Kathmandu Nepal
Ph:+977 1 4443350
Cell: +977 9851067959
Fax:+977 1 4438600
GPO Box: 8975, EPC No: 5119
Kathmandu, Nepal

2011 April 15 – The Himalayan Times

Third gender issued citizenship certificate

by THT Online
Kathmandu: The District Administration Office, Myagdi, has recently issued citizenship certificate based on gender identity to Dilu Budujha, a third gender, of Narchang VDC in the Myagdi district. Also known by the name Badri, the recipient was born as female and grew up as a masculine person. Dilu has currently been working for the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), an orgainisation working for rights of third genders in Nepal, as human rights activist.

Issuing a press statement today, the BDS commended the decision to grant citizenship certificate to Dilu, saying the move reflects the state’s respect to all Nepali citizen regardless of gender identity and sexuality.

This is only the second instance in Nepal that citizenship certificate has been issued to a third gender. In 2007, the District Administration Office, Kaski had issued such a citizenship document to Bishnu Adhikari. In the statement, the BDS also urged Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal to issue circulars, instructing the Chief District Officers of all the districts of Nepal to provide citizenship certificate to third genders.

April 30, 2011 – Gay UK News

Transgender Nepalis Perform Traditional Wedding Blessing for Royal Couple at British Embassy

Kathmandu – A dozen of Nepal’s “third gender” marked the British royal wedding with a traditional Nepali blessing ceremony at the British Embassy in Kathmandu in Friday afternoon. Transgender people, many dressed in the finery of Nepali dancers, performed the traditional dance of hijras, the eunuch community, which was once regarded as a must during weddings and births. The wedding blessing is a tradition in Nepal, said, according to Hindu culture, to bring good luck to the newly-weds.

The colourful ceremony, arranged by the Embassy and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender NGO Blue Diamond Society (BDS), included puja, singing, dance and prashad – offerings. Tradition says that the newly-weds give gifts in return, usually money or clothes. Days after the royal wedding date was announced, BDS, in a statement said Nepal’s transgender community was offering its blessings and wishes for the royal couple’s happiness.

The statement netted them an invitation from Ambassador John Tucknott to the British Embassy on Friday to perform the Hindu ceremony at about the same time as the wedding was taking place in London’s Westminster Abbey.

31 May 2011 – PinkNews

Nepalese census includes category for ‘third gender’

by Christopher Brocklebank
Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics has given official recognition to LGB and transgender people. This is being hailed as a bold move and key victory for equality given that the country only decriminalised gay relationships in 2007.
Data was collected for the first time on the ‘third gender’ in this year’s Nepalese census, which was gathered from 5.6 million households across the country.

Bikash Bista, a spokesman for the statistics bureau, said the new category was an attempt to engage the inhabitants of an essentially conservative country to open up to different points of view. But the fight to win recognition in the state for gender minorities, gay men and lesbians has been hard-won. Sunil Pant, activist and founder of LGBT rights organisation Blue Diamond Society said: “We had to put in a lot of pressure to have the third gender counted in the census. “It was only after we said that we would go to court that the officials agreed to include the third gender as a category.”

The landmark 2007 Supreme Court ruling that instructed Nepal to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and decriminalise “unnatural sex” was “an inspiration” said Mr Pant. The ruling also decreed that citizenship certificates (which work as national identity papers) must clearly indicate an individual’s choice of gender identity. The government is also working on changing a list of discriminatory laws so that gender minorities can enjoy the same rights as others, including inheritance rights.

However, same-sex marriage remains a contentious issue – there are currently no countries in south Asia where it is legal. The step forward in recognition of gender identity was though, Mr Pant said, “encouraging”.

June 22, 2011 – India Real Time

South Asia’s First Gay Temple Wedding

Nepal may be a failing state on some counts, but when it comes to gay rights, it has become a beacon in South Asia. On Monday, the Himalayan nation became possibly the first country in the region to celebrate a public wedding for a lesbian couple. Courtney Mitchell, a 41-year-old college professor, and Sarah Welton, a 48-year-old lawyer, both from Denver, Colorado, tied the knot at a temple in the outskirts of capital Kathmandu. The wedding took place at the famous temple of Dakshinkali, a powerful Hindu goddess, where hundreds of devotees throng daily to sacrifice animals to appease her.

“The wedding was wonderful. We are very happy,” said Ms. Mitchell, who donned the traditional Nepali bridegroom attire of daura suruwal and topi—long trousers, a shirt and a cap. Ms. Welton was resplendent in a red sari and traditional Nepali jewelries and adornments, according to the Nepali gay rights activist who helped organize the wedding. The couple exchanged garlands amid traditional music. “I felt very happy,” said the bride. The couple spoke to India Real Time in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
More In Gay-Rights

Ms. Mitchell said that though their marriage had been sanctified before the gods, it has yet to gain legal standing. Same-sex marriage is not allowed in Colorado, she said, so the couple may consider going to states like Iowa for a legally recognized union after returning to the U.S. Iowa allowed same-sex marriage in 2009, joining few other states like Massachusetts and Connecticut. Even though Nepal is wracked by multiple-hour power cuts, a fuel crisis and political limbo over the drafting of a new Constitution, the country has become steadily more progressive socially since it ousted its 240-year-old Hindu monarchy in 2008, persuaded Maoist rebels to put down arms and join electoral politics, and became a republic. Although same-sex marriage is not presently recognized in Nepal, the country’s Supreme Court ruled against discrimination against gay people in 2007.

But, still, a same-sex wedding in a temple is an unprecedented sign of acceptance. Sunil Babu Pant, a gay legislator from a Communist party in Nepal’s 601-member Constituent Assembly, which is also playing the role of Parliament for the moment, said Monday’s wedding was the second international same-sex wedding in Nepal but the first to be held in public. In 2010, Mr. Pant helped a British man and his Indian partner enter into wedlock. He says Nepal is emerging as a favorite wedding celebration and honeymoon destination for the LGBT—lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender—community. “Nepal has progressed a lot compared to other South Asian countries in giving equal rights to LGBT people and Nepalis have been very accommodating to diversity,” Mr. Pant said. “It is not like the U.S. and India where religious extremists oppose LGBT rights.”

Though still staunchly conservative, India, Nepal’s largest neighbor after China, has also been making slow strides in recognizing gay and lesbian rights. In 2009, an Indian court struck down a British-era law that criminalized homosexuality. Religious groups have appealed the verdict, and the Supreme Court is yet to uphold or overturn the lower court’s decision.
More In Nepal

Mr. Pant said Nepal’s government has set up a committee to look into legalizing same-sex marriage in Nepal and the committee is due to submit its recommendations soon. “All the major political parties in Nepal support LGBT rights and even the religious groups haven’t opposed,” he said. Mr. Pant, who also runs Blue Diamond Society, a Kathmandu-based LGBT rights group, and Pink Mountain Travels & Tours, which caters to the LGBT community, said more than 70 people attended Monday’s wedding, which got widespread national and international coverage. “There was singing, dancing and lots of fun,” Mr. Pant said. The newlyweds said they plan to spend a week in Nepal on a “fun trekking program,” helping street children in Kathmandu, and working with oppressed caste groups before they head back to the U.S. Ms. Mitchell, who worked in Nepal in the late 1990s and early 2000s, says the couple plan to return to Nepal sometime in the future with their adopted daughter to continue their work in Nepal’s development sector.

16 June 2011 – Fridae

LGBTs in Nepal may face 16 years jail as new laws are being considered

by Sylvia Tan
The newly proposed criminal code in Nepal is reported to contain provisions which will criminalise "unnatural" sexual acts including same-sex sexual relations. Fridae speaks to Sunil Pant, an activist and Nepal’s first openly gay MP, about the impact of the new laws if approved.
The news website warned in a June 10 report: “Almost three years after Nepal became the first country in South Asia where the apex court recognised same sex marriages, the nascent republic’s strong gay rights movement now faces severe threat from a new law in the pipeline.” Sunil Pant, Nepal’s first and only openly gay member of parliament and founder of LGBT advocacy group The Blue Diamond Society, at a pride parade in Kathmandu in 2010.

The draft of the new criminal and civil code, which was prepared by the law and justice ministry, was submitted to parliament earlier this month. The proposed law will provide for a jail term of up to 16 years and a fine, Sunil Pant, Nepal’s first openly gay member of parliament and founder of LGBT advocacy group The Blue Diamond Society, told Fridae in an email. If the laws pass, it will also affect the country’s official recognition of the so-called ‘third gender’ or transgenders who have been able to register as such when applying for their for national identity papers after a hard won legal battle. The landmark 2007 Supreme Court ruling ordered the government to “formulate new laws and amend existing laws in order to safeguard the rights of these people.”

Nepal’s Central Bureau has for the first time added the ‘third gender’ as a category in the national census it is conducting this year although the ‘third gender’ registration has reportedly not been implemented nationwide. Until the landmark court ruling in 2007, same-sex acts could be charged under the ambiguous "unnatural sex” law that provided a prison term of up to a year or five thousand rupee fine (US$70). Nepal never had laws that explicitly criminalised homosexuality. The marriage clauses in the new codes also define marriage as only that between a man and a woman, and if passed, will dash Nepal’s hopes of being the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage. The Nepal Supreme Court in 2008 directed the government in Nepal to formulate necessary laws to guarantee full rights to gays, including marriage.

Pant told Fridae in an email: “The drafting process was started by few people from the law ministry and two judges from the Supreme Court. The criminal law drafting committee is chaired by Justice Khil Raj Regmi (now Chief Justice) and civil law drafting committee chaired Justice Kalyan Shrestha. There’s very little involvement on the part of the current government as it was mostly done by its predecessors. No blame to the current Minister for Law and Justice Prabhu Sah.” Pant, who said his organisation was not consulted on the proposed bill, is appealing to the international community to intervene and write to the Nepal government, and that Blue Diamond will do whatever they can to raise awareness about the issue locally and internationally to prevent the bill from being passed.

August 14, 2011 – Mercury News

Hundreds rally in Nepal for sexual rights

by Binaj Gurubachraya (AP)
Narayanghat, Nepal—Hundreds of gay, lesbian, transgender people marched with supporters in a southern Nepal town Sunday to demand equal rights under a new constitution the country is in the process of writing. The estimated 500 demonstrators danced, chanted slogans and marched around Narayanghat, a town about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the capital of Katmandu on Sunday, which is also Nepal’s traditional festival of Gaijatra honoring the dead. The gay community has been holding demonstrations on the festival day in the capital, but it was the first time that activists have organized a rally outside the capital.

Gay rights activists and parliament member Sunil Pant said their main aim was to spread their campaign outside the capital city. Nepal, a traditionally conservative, mostly Hindu nation, has only recently begun accepting homosexuality. The country is also in the process of writing a new constitution which could include provisions to guarantee rights for the sexual minorities. Pant said the major political parties have agreed to include the rights of the sexual minorities in the new constitution. However, the new constitution that was due to be promulgated last year has been delayed following differences among the political parties on various other issues.

In the town of Narayanghat, the rally was led by two decorated elephants which was followed by musical bands drawing the local people to the streets. Many of them wore saris that were bright red, pink, yellow. They danced to the music, and holding banners that said: "Sexual rights for all. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender right are human rights." "We want spread awareness among the people in the rural areas too. People in the capital mostly accept the idea but we need to spread the awareness," Pant said.

Anee Lama, who had traveled all night on a bus from her hometown in east Nepal with her friends, said it there were positive changes being made in the country but there was still more that needs to be done. "In the past three years we have seen a lot of changes for people like us. We could not have imagined taking part in a rally like this just few years ago or being accepted by family and friends for who we are," Lama said. "But now we are campaigning for the people in the villages and rural parts to come out and join us."

Until a few years ago, gays and lesbian and transgenders were not able to declare their sexual choice in the open. According to the Blue Diamond Society that advocates for sexual rights in Nepal, transvestites were beaten by both the public and police and were discriminated. Pant said more people are coming out in the open to declare their sexual preference in the urban areas, but people in rural villages are still afraid.

August 2011 – UNDP

Nepal census recognizes third gender for the first time

Nepal has just completed its first national census that officially includes a third option in the gender categories that citizens can select, opening the way for stronger recognition of sexual and gender minority rights in provision of public services. Official recognition of third gender rights follows a landmark 2007 Supreme Court decision aimed at securing rights for Nepal’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex population, adding the new category on citizenship documentation essential to access a range of health and legal services. The 2007 decision required all citizenship certificates to clearly indicate an individual’s gender identity. The certificates, which work as national identity papers, are used when opening a bank account, purchasing property, accepting employment or applying for a passport.

“After the Supreme Court decision we are able to go out freely and we feel more respected – a number of us already have citizenship as third-gender,” said Bhumika Shrestha, a campaigner for sexual minority rights. “The government also set aside an annual budget for us and many official forms now provide a choice other than female or male.” The plight of Nepal’s sexual minorities is depicted in a 10-minute documentary, Out of the Closet, produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and non-governmental organizations, including the Blue Diamond Society (BDS).

“This landmark decision is also the beginning of all the actions that need to follow,” said Shoko Noda, UNDP Country Director in Nepal. “The decision’s implementation will certainly help reduce barriers and broaden access to essential services – particularly in enhancing HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care.” UNDP has been working on HIV/AIDS with the Government of Nepal and non-governmental organizations, managing funds from DFID and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

With support from the Global Fund, in 2006, UNDP was the first international agency to boost national organizations such as BDS which were then able to step up a range of HIV/AIDS-related services in all 14 districts of Nepal, reaching more than 185,000 people. Nepal is the only South Asian country to recognize third gender rights. The results of this year’s census will be made public by the end of October.

September 15, 2011 – GNN

Third gender for Nepal?

Nepal’s new constitution looks set to protect LGBTI rights, including the recognition of a "third gender". The country is currently undergoing constitutional reform as it progresses from absolute monarchy to democracy. The process follows a December 2007 decision by Nepal’s Supreme Court that LGBTI people are natural people and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Advocates for change have seen little political opposition to the changes.

Manisha Dhakal, a transgender activist, told the trustlaw blogsite there was a tradition of recognising third gender in Nepal. “The third gender is very much a part of the culture of south Asia,” she said. “The Hindu religion is very inclusive and accepting of the third gender and homosexuality.”

Nepal’s first openly gay MP Sunil Pant agreed that change was coming quietly, telling it was mainly due to “a receptive private sector, lack of sensational media, and the Hindu religious tradition, which has deities that challenge binary gender norms. The LGBT issues are pretty well formulated in the draft [constitution], and there is no opposition, so we don’t need to worry about that… Our concern is about how long it will take to have the constitution,” he said.

October 5, 2011 – World Policy Blog

Bureaucracy in Nepal Leads to HIV Deaths

by Kyle Knight
Bureaucratic deadlock is starting to kill people in Nepal. The country’s NGO sector working with populations deemed high-risk for contracting HIV-AIDS are in desperate need of $10 million of donor funds currently held by the cash-strapped government. While stories of stagnant bureaucracy in Nepal’s fledgling democratic government are not new, the consequences this time will put those increasingly dependent on NGO support at great risk. The failures of Nepal’s ineffective—even Kafkaesque—bureaucracy have obstructed even the most basic services, leaving NGOs to care for the country’s population.

Working with the most at-risk groups in the country such as intravenous drug users (IDUs), men who have sex with men (MSMs), and Nepal’s sizable transgender (TG) population, these organizations are unable to help treat or prevent HIV from spreading, because of the government’s embarrassing financial disorganization. NGOs working with IDUs have already reported preventable deaths linked to the funding gap, and organizations working with MSMs and TGs have not been able to hand out condoms for nearly three months. “It’s not that we don’t know how to treat people, or that we don’t have the capacity—it’s that we don’t have the money, ” explains an activist working for an IDU NGO. “Basic infections are going un-treated. Staff are looking for jobs elsewhere. These are unnecessary deaths.” This is nothing new for donor-dependent Nepal. Sadly, the country is used to funding crises, especially in its HIV-AIDS programs. A recent impending shortage of pediatric ARV (anti-retro viral) was averted, thanks to the intervention of the United Nations.

The UN action has been a lifeline for the medical community and Nepali children living with HIV-AIDS. But it is far from enough. The HIV prevalence rate in Nepal is believed to be below 1 percent of the adult population, but infection rates vary considerably, and are substantially higher in most at-risk populations. In 2009, the government announced that the prevalence rates were decreasing across the country. The blocked $10 million will surely and unnecessarily boost the number of people infected by the virus and erase any gains made in recent years. While the impassive government receives warnings from international organizations, the risk of a new wave of infection is reaching a critical point.

On September 21, the World Bank wrote urgently to Health Secretary Dr. Sudha Sharma, warning of the clear and present danger that the funding gap poses to the lives of at-risk populations, “We have now reached a point where… efforts are all but exhausted and service interruption is likely unless the contracts are signed immediately.”

Read complete article here

October 07, 2011 – Asia One

Unpaid AIDS workers in Nepal ‘turn to prostitution’

Kathmandu(AFP) – Desperate AIDS charity workers in Nepal are turning to prostitution to pay bills and buy food because government bureacracy has denied them their wages, campaigners claimed Friday. Gay rights and AIDS charity the Blue Diamond Society said it had been unable to pay its outreach workers, who receive as little as 3,000 rupees (S$49) a month, for 12 weeks.

"There are about 400 outreach and peer educators in Nepal and some are living with HIV," said the group’s leader, Nepalese lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant. "Their main job is to educate people into safer sex, distribute condoms, provide HIV and sexuality counselling etcetera. We don’t have exact details, but many have turned to sex work to survive," he said.

Pant said many of his employees might even be failing to use condoms in border areas where free contraception is no longer available. The World Policy Institute think-tank said on its blog this week that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) battling HIV/AIDS in Nepal were being denied $10 million (S$13 million) in aid currently being held by the government. The money has been in limbo since 2009 when Nepal announced it would stop funding HIV/AIDS education programmes, saying that infection rates were slowing down.

After pressure from the World Bank, the deeply impoverished Himalayan country agreed to reverse its decision, but problems with contract negotiations and other bureaucratic delays have meant the money has still not been released. "While stories of stagnant bureaucracy in Nepal’s fledgling democratic government are not new, the consequences this time will put those increasingly dependent on NGO support at great risk," said Kyle Knight, author of the World Policy Institute blog post. About one per cent of the adult population of Nepal is estimated to be HIV positive, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. No one was immediately available for comment from the health ministry.

October 25, 2011 – Global Press Institute

Sexual and Gender Minorities With HIV Face Double Stigma in Nepal

by Tara Bhattarai, GPI
Kathmandu, Nepal – In a residential area of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, neighbors are unaware of what goes on inside this three-story building. Neighbors stare at the men, often dressed in women’s clothing and makeup, as they disappear inside.
The building is a hospice center for HIV-infected men who have sex with men, MSM, and “meti,” the term for transgender or “third gender” people here. Blue Diamond Society, BDS, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Nepalis, runs the center to provide services for the most critical cases.

“Third gender people are often disliked by the society,” says Dibya Gurung, one of the residents at the facility. “Due to the fear of discrimination, we often don’t come out as HIV-infected.” Gurung, who is infected with HIV, comes from Tanahu, a district about 150 kilometers west of Kathmandu. He wears a green vest and a sarong-like cloth called a “lungi.” With pink bangles around his wrists, red beads around his neck, his nose pierced, his ears decked with gold earrings and his eyebrows neatly threaded, the 32-year-old looks like a woman. His mannerisms and the way he talks are also feminine.

Although he has a man’s body, Gurung says he leads a feminine life. Because of this, he says he often has had to face social ridicule. Growing up, he says that he liked sitting with the girls in school. But teachers disapproved, as girls and boys do not sit next to each other in most of Nepal’s schools. Because of this lack of acceptance, Gurung dropped out of school after the fifth grade.

Gurung says that he faced opposition at home, too. Unlike boys his age, he preferred to do household chores and wanted to wear his mother’s and sister’s clothes. Gurung’s family started to resent him, eventually forcing him to move to Pokhara, a tourist town in central Nepal, and work as a dishwasher. “Though I’m born as a man, I’m trying to live as a woman,” a tearful Gurung says. “It’s actually a very tough job.”

Born as Nandu Lal Gurung, he changed his first name when he got older to Dibya, a unisex name that is popular mostly among women here. In Pokhara, he says he met a man named Manoj Thapa and soon fell in love with him. After their relationship developed, Gurung says that Thapa told him that Nepali society didn’t respect people from the third gender and asked him to elope in India. He lured Gurung with the prospects of a good job and a better life in Mumbai, India’s largest city, which is notorious for human trafficking and prostitution.

Read complete article here

November 9, 2011 – The Huffington Post

Nepal, Thanks To Maoist Rebels, Is Emerging As Asia’s Pioneer Regarding Rights For LGBT People

by Jason Overdorf
Kathmandu, Nepal — In the quiet courtyard of Dechenling Garden, a Bhutanese restaurant on the fringes of the capital’s bustling backpacker ghetto, Nepal’s first openly gay member of parliament sips on a lime soda during a short break in his busy political schedule. His name is Sunil Babu Pant. A young, maverick politician with dark, wavy hair and a close-trimmed goatee, Pant has already emerged as a leader reminiscent of Harvey Milk in his San Francisco heyday, pushing tiny, conservative Nepal into the forefront of the battle for gay rights. "Nepal is going through tremendous transformation — politically, socially, economically, legally — so a lot of communities who had no space or voice before have emerged," Pant told GlobalPost.

Thanks, unexpectedly, to a Maoist rebellion and subsequent decade-long civil war, Pant and other activists have already made some big strides — and they’re inching closer to making Nepal the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage. But the struggle for the rights of sexual minorities is intensifying here as lawmakers haggle over a new constitution nearly five years after the peace deal that transformed the tiny Himalayan kingdom into a democratic republic in 2007. On one side is a patchwork coalition that supports a more progressive platform, including gay rights, and on the other is a conservative alignment that believes gay marriage would threaten the religious fabric of Nepal’s traditional Hindu society.

"A strong attack is going on against Hindu culture, Hindu religion and Hindu society," said Shankar Pandey, a former legislator and central coordinator of National Religion Awareness Campaign, which urges its followers to adhere to the Hindu way of life. Like many conservatives, Pandey believes that homosexuality is an affront to the country’s Hindu heritage.

Strangely, the new social and political space for sexual minorities has sprouted from the seeds of Nepal’s attempted Maoist revolution. The Maoists — guerilla fighters who draw their support from the rural poor — were hardly liberals when it came to sexuality. Still, their hard-fought insurgency shook the establishment enough that no one political party has been able to achieve a clear majority in post-war elections, and that has increased the power and influence of small parties and tightly knit constituencies.

But after Nepal’s major political parties reached a pivotal agreement to demobilize the former soldiers of the Maoist army Nov. 1 –paving the way for the drafting of a new constitution — it’s not yet clear if all of those groups will be able to capitalize on those gains as the period of political turmoil comes to an end. "It is not liberality, it is just unruliness," said Pandey. "When there are no rules, no system set, whatever the environment or pressure groups want is what goes."

In Pandey’s view, Pant’s entry to the legislature is a perfect example.

Read complete article here

16 November 2011 – PinkNews

Shooting finishes on first gay Nepalese film Snow Flowers, dubbed “Brokeback Everest”

by Stephen Gray
Filming has finished on what its actors have called the first serious gay film to be made in Nepal, AFP reports.
Nisha Adhikari, who plays one of the film’s two central lesbian characters, said: “It’s two individuals falling in love and facing all the controversy and restrictions, and mental, emotional and physical traumas of being a lesbian in Nepal.

“It’s a simple love story with a lot of complications”. She continued: “The entire movie is based on the trauma — what it is like not being able to come out and live your life because there are so many restrictions. There is no liberty in not living your life the way you want, irrespective of who you are attracted to sexually. This movie will be an eye-opener for a lot of people who have just viewed these issues very superficially.”

Sunil Pant, the only openly gay MP in Nepal, said: “Nepal has always been tolerant and we are now really ready to treat each other equally. “It’s also about freedom of expression and our right to be able to watch films about our lives and issues. I am excited and can’t wait to see the film released in Nepal.” Mr Pant was instrumental in helping to organise two high-profile gay wedding ceremonies in Nepal involving couples from the UK and the US, though same-sex marriage is not yet enshrined in law.

Following the end of monarchical rule in 2007, many LGBT rights were enshrined, and a new constitution is expected to make provisions for gay marriages. Religious gay ceremonies are reported to be widely accepted in Nepalese society. Last year, Nepal’s census included a ‘third gender’ for the first time. Snow Flowers, which was filmed in Kathmandu and Pokhara City and dubbed “Brokeback Everest” in a nod to Ang Lee’s film Brokeback Mountain, will be released in the spring.