Sunil B. Pant’s Speech at UN, 18 Dec 2008
Date: 18 Dec 2008, UN, New York, Time: 13:30 PM
On the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) the UN may be divided but we, the people of Nepal, are encouraged to advance everyone’s rights regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Last year, Nepal’s Supreme Court decision issued directives to the Government of Nepal to recognise gender minorities for the first time. With the Supreme Court’s written findings on the case that were recently issued ordering the Government to protect and defend sexual and gender minorities’ equal rights, opportunities, freedom and security, Nepal has taken a lead in championing inclusion, human rights and freedom in Asia. It is also encouraging to see Nepal’s government commitment to pro poor and inclusive government policies by including a support programme for sexual and gender minorities in the Budget for the first time in Nepal.
It is not just the government and Supreme Court that are becoming more inclusive in Nepal: now a private bank – “Everest Bank” – has changed its account opening form and made it possible to open a bank account as a third gender. A semi government corporation – “Handicraft and Small Industry Corporation” – has started providing baking and sewing and tailoring training to LGBTIs.
When I recently visited India to support LGBTI rights, there many people asking whether Indian society is ready to accept LGBTI rights? Many people used to question whether Nepal, a country which is much more backward and poor compared to India and many other countries is ready to accept gay rights. Now Nepali society and government reflect the Supreme Court ruling. I have been elected as an openly gay MP and being part of the Constituent Assembly are examples of an inclusive, democratic and free society and parliament. If Nepal is ready to make these adjustments, then many countries like India are also long ready. It is just few vocal fanatics on the grounds of “politics or religion” who wish to think that society is not ready. The reality, however, is that society in general is always ready to respect one another, support each other, living in harmony together – regardless of whom we choose to love.
The conservatives wished for women not to have any rights, they wished Dalits – so-called “untouchables” – not to have any rights, indigenous people not to have any rights and many more marginalized people not have any rights, including LGBTIs. But the people in general do not wish to discriminate against their fellow neighbours and family members and things are improving in many fronts. However, there are many rulers and conservative extremists who do not wish to share our freedom, rights and equality – what we all deserve as we are at birth.
Support from the Norwegians, Dutch, British, French on Human Rights, Constitutional Work and HIV/AIDS as well as skill development training – such as beauty salon training and driving lessons to the LGBTs have helped to achieve so much in the last 7-8 years.
I know we seem to be lucky to have access to limited funds on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights but the need is huge and gap remains wide. I would also like to point the double standards that some countries – when it comes to advancing Human Rights, democracy and providing development aid to poor countries. First, some countries do not give a single second thought when providing development foreign aid to the most oppressive and brutal regimes who are cruelly treating and even murdering their own citizens on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity. Second, none of the countries in the world tax less any citizen because we are gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and intersex. So why have the tax payer’s money never been directed towards sexual/gender minorities (or only negligible amounts allocated) while you give aid to the poor countries? Why the principle of non discrimination is not applied on the ground of sexual orientation and gender
identities on development aid? This is very crucial question and demands good answers.
Now Nepal is moving towards championing a free, democratic and prosperous society after such a long time of darkness and we need your support. We need your moral support, we need your spiritual support, we need your technical support and we need your financial support.
I know the recession has hit many wealthy countries very hard but the hardest hit are the poorest ones in many parts of the world. The financial crises along with issues around climate change are of considerable concern for all of us to work through. Many wealthy countries have supported poor countries like Nepal when you enjoyed the economic boom. Climate change is affecting countries like Nepal faster than elsewhere because of our extreme altitudes. Now the time has come to show your genuine compassion towards the poor, despite your economic slow down; because the suffering of poor in poor countries has always been incomparable to the rich and has become even worse at this global financial crisis.
So I call on all the developed countries to support the many poor African and Asian countries and poor countries elsewhere.
I thank my government of Nepal and people of Nepal to support this noble cause at the UN and for taking a lead internationally to support LGBTI rights.
I thank you all for this opportunity to share and thank you for listening.
Sunil Babu pant
Member of Constituent Assembly and Parliament