Archive for the ‘Nepal’ Category
Eight transgenders join UML Party
Sent by Sunil Pant
KATHMANDU: Political parties in Nepal seem to be getting friendly and welcoming with sexual minorities in recent days. A few months after Bhumika Shreshta, a transsexual, joined the Nepali Congress, the ruling CPN-UML welcomed eight sexual minorities in. UML Vice Chairman Ashok Rai welcomed them amid a function at party headquarters in Balkhu on Friday. Rai said they would be recognised as zonal committee members. Newly joined UML activists include Sandhya Lama, Badri Pun, Suman Chepang, Bishnu Chepang, Sumit Paudel, Raju Silwal and Sthapa Chaudhary. “We are quite happy with your entry into our party,” said Aasta Laxmi Shakya, a UML politburo member. “Your entry will be easier in mainstreaming your agenda as well.” UML leaders KP Sharma Oli, Binda Paney and Rai were also present at the function.
Russian Culture Center in Nepal discriminate sexual and Gender minorities based on Russian Law and Religion
I am writing this mail with grave concern with discriminatory behavior from Russian Culture Center in Nepal against sexual and gender minority communities.
Manoj Pandey, a documentary filmmaker and trade union activists, made “Struggle Within“, a ground breaking documentary on Nepalese sexual and gender minorities facing work and labour related dissemination. Main issues covered by the documentary were: Two Lesbian fired by Nepal Army in 2007, another Two Lesbians fired by Maoist Army in 2005. Third gender fired by a restaurant in Pokhara.
Blue Diamond Society made this documentary with the support from European Union Funding support and was preparing to show at Russian Culture Center, booked the Russian Culture Center but at the last moment Russian Culture Canter coordinator Mr. Arseny Starkov cancelled the show of the documentary saying “sexual and gender minorities issues are against Russian Law and Religion”.
This is very unfortunate that Russian Culture Center tried to impose Russian law and religion in Nepali soil.
Nepal supreme court said on its verdict in 21 Dec 2007 “Discrimination against sexual and gender minorities is not allowed”. Nepal government also have supportive and inclusive policy and programs for sexual and gender minorities.
We all Nepali sexual and gender minorities condemned Russian Culture center’s unfortunate decision which is against the Supreme court’s decision and against the Nepal government’s policy that is inclusive of sexual and gender minorities.
We demand Russian culture canter to explain Nepal government and Nepali people: ” Whether Nepali law or Russian law we should follow in Nepali soil, Nepali territory?”
We call Nepal government to issue directives to such parties like Russian Culture Center that such parties MUST follow Nepali law in Nepali soil and any discrimination against any Nepali citizens regardless of sexual orientation and gender identities are prohibited in Nepal.
We call trade unions to look at this matter seriously and condemn such act of discrimination against minority citizens.
Sunil Babu Pant
Member of Parliament and Founder of Blue Diamond Society
The Kathmandu Post: Capital to see first LGBT Centre in region
Sent by Sunil Pant
Kathmandu, Feb 02
Nepal has been ahead of other South Asian countries to ensure the legal rights of sexual minorities. Now, members of the community have decided to establish a South Asian Community Centre, said to be the first of its kind in the region, in the Capital with an aim to empower and foster a sense of unity among sexual minorities.
According to Sunil Babu Pant, the first Constituent Assembly member from the community and the president of Blue Diamond Society, an organisation that works towards sexual minority rights, the centre will play a pivotal role in imparting various trainings for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals (LGBTs) so as to make them self-dependent.
Despite legal rights, LGBTs in Nepal still are not socially accepted. Most are still unemployed, and some have difficulties enrolling at schools or colleges due to their sexual orientation.
According to Pant, the Centre will have all the facilities such as a health centre, a library, a theatre hall, a conference hall, shelter for needy and abandoned members, playgrounds, swimming pool, and a cafeteria with ample parking space.
In this regard, Blue Diamond Society has already bought five ropanis of land in Taudaha on the outskirts of the Valley, and architectural plans for the centre are underway. A part of the funds were provided by the government.
Pant is hopeful that the centre will systematise their programmes and activities, uplift the existing status of community members, provide temporary residence for members of the community, and ensure the privacy of members as well as social security to elderly members.
The estimated budget for the centre stands at Rs. 24.5 million. “There is no way to wait for government assistance. We will reach out to potential donors,” said Pant. In addition, the government has also pledged to provide assistance to make the plan successful.
Blue Diamond Society plans to complete the construction of the centre within three years.
I am extremely concern and saddened when I heard: Taking his post at the opening of the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations, on 15 September 2009, Libyan Ali Abdussalam Treki suggested that homosexuality was unacceptable.
The newly-elected President was asked during his press conference about the UN Resolution calling for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality. “That matter is very sensitive, very touchy. As a Muslim, I am not in favour of it…it is not accepted by the majority of the countries. My opinion is not in favour of this matter at all, I think it is not really acceptable by our religion, our tradition”, he said.
I call on the President to represent all countries and people of all walks not only Muslims. He is there to defend the principles of the United Nations and that includes the Universal Declaration Human Rights Act 1948 and all following amendments and covenants of rights, including LGBT Human Rights.
His religious views should remain private and he must now speak on behalf of those who do not have a voice. He should know that the implications of his words could legitimize violence and hatred towards LGBTI people in country like Libya.
Nepal, along with 66 countries, signed the Resolution in favour of the decriminalization of homosexuality and passed last December. Nepal is very much committed to realize full equality and justice for all regardless of sexual orientations and gender identities.
Sunil Babu Pant
Founder, Blue Diamond Society
Coordinator, Parliamentary Action Team on Environment, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction.
Photo: Sunil Pant
Mumbai: The upcoming Lok Sabha elections and the world wide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement may not have anything in common but keeping in mind the fact that homosexuality is illegal in over 80 countries with India being one of them, international pressure groups are urging that the rights of this marginalised community be seriously addressed this election season.
On Wednesday, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) with a coalition of four countries in the South Asian region, where homophobia and discriminatory laws against homosexuality is rampant, chaired their first meeting in the city. Countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India in coalition with SIDA will work collectively to ensure that rights of this minority community are looked after seriously.
Giving teeth to this Mumbai Chapter was Nepal’s gay Member of Parliament, Sunil Babu Pant. “Abuse of the LGBT community takes place all over the world part of this is also the discriminatory laws we have. In Nepal we brought a sea change when a small Communist party put the LGBT rights on their election manifesto and came to power. Today Nepal as a country is more open to accept us in the mainstream society,” said Pant. Pant says India can go a long way if a similar approach is adopted here. “Acceptance of the LGBT community in the mainstream is a two-way process. Though homophobia has to be reduced at the grass root level, lot of this change can also take place if our rights are protected. Since India considers itself to be a champion of democracy, it should make serious efforts to put an end to unfriendly laws,” said Pant.
As this coalition’s main ambition is to bring changes in LGBT rights in South Asia, their main aim for India is to change the controversial section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which defines homosexuality as a criminal offence. The coalition formed by SIDA will be meeting in Delhi next month to discuss the issue with the government. “We had filed a PIL with the Delhi High Court eight years back to change this section. There is a serious need to scrap this section as this gives the state the right to intervene in anyone’s personal life. The section has been used for harassment, physical and sexual violence in the past. Hence the LGBT community seriously thinks that the Act is more of a corruption issue than law and order one,” said activist lawyer, Aditya Bandyopadyay.
Luring gays as tourism destination by Baburam Kharel, ekantipur.com, sent by Sunil Pant
Photo Kathmandu Pride 2005, Blue Diamond Society
KATHMANDU, March 24 – Life’s pretty rough on gays and lesbians, more so while travelling. Even on a simple occasion like eating out, more often than not they are subjected to discrimination. For instance, waiters get nosy about their appearance and may even ask them about their sexual identity.
Fortunately, thanks to Nepal’s tourism and service industry, foreign gays and lesbians do not have to suffer like in other countries.
In a break from the traditional mindset, some of the country’s tour operators have now geared up to lure foreign gay and lesbian tourists. Earlier, this kind of travel used to be closeted.
A number of restaurants, discos and hotels have been established in the country that cater to gay and lesbian couples. Employees in these establishments have been trained to behave better so that visiting couples get the respect they are looking for.
Popular travel website utopia-asia.com has listed these various places where foreign gays and lesbians are treated differently. However, proprietors of these venues rarely open up regarding the service they provide.
Another travel website — www.visitnepal2011.com — has come to the fore calling gays and lesbians to visit Nepal. This website has posted a separate section for gay/lesbian travel but does not disclose its travel features.
Notably, according to Lonely Planet’s website, some foreign gays and lesbians have been choosing the country as the most romantic rendezvous.
Owing to the country’s deep-rooted culture of respecting guests, scores of foreign gays and lesbians travel in the country every year without any hindrance, say travel operators. But this is a subject rarely discussed.
“It is something that foreign guests are always treated in a good manner,” says Jyoti Adhikari, President of Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, an umbrella organisation of more than 700 travel agencies in the country. “Compared to other western countries, foreign gays and lesbians are not discriminated against here.”
Adhikari admits that a large number of travellers have been visiting the country since years and no case of discrimination has come to the fore. “Some restaurants and hotels in Kathmandu offer good treatment to these couples,” he informs.
Likewise, Sunil Babu Pant, a lawmaker and president of Blue Diamond Society, an organisation that advocates the rights of gays and lesbians, also admits these tourists have never been discriminated in the country whereas Nepalis from the same community are always prone to harsh treatment.
“With travel package for foreign gays and lesbians, local sexual minorities can get employment opportunity in the tourism sector,” says Pant. “The government itself should take initiative in this regard.”
The Supreme Court in a landmark verdict recently said gays and lesbians were “natural” people. It directed the government to remove all discrimination against the community and ensure for them the rights enjoyed by all other citizens.
Photo by Dipesh Shrestha
Kathmandu, March 5: On February 25, Sunil Babu Pant received the Monette-Howitz Trust’s annual award for making a significant contribution for work against homophobia. This is not the first time that Pant has received an International award. But this time it was, in Pant’s own words, more special because a representative of the Monette-Howitz Trust, Winston Wilde, came all the way to Kathmandu from Los Angeles to present the award among his own people.
“There are so many gay organizations fighting for rights, but the work that has been done in Nepal is significant and thus stands out,” says Wilde.
As the work done by Blue Diamond Society (BDS), an organization of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and inter-sex (LGBTI) people of Nepal, gets recognition around the world, its members are also gaining more confidence in their fight to gain equal rights, but for many the fight against an age old taboo is still a lifelong struggle.
A transgendered person who bumped into BDS a few years ago, Bhumika Shrestha, says the community of sexual minorities she found in BDS finally helped give her a sense of identity.
“Before coming here, I was utterly confused about how to regard my sexual orientation, my own acceptance, and how dependent I was on what others thought about me,” shares Bhumika.
But now Bhumika not only found a community that accepts her as she is, but she is also taking the cause of the LGBTI community to places she hadn’t imagined before. Bhumika, currently the human rights officer at the Blue Diamond Society, has made it her mission to fight for the rights of the LGBTI community.
“We had gone to meet the President yesterday, and his response towards us is very positive,” says Bhumika.
“Before we needed to hide, but now society has recognized our existence, although most remain prejudiced. Our major concern is that we still don’t have even the most basic fundamental rights,” she adds.
In December 2007, the Supreme Court issued a directive which contained three ruling points. These points included providing citizenship cards according to gender identity and also to insure equal rights for the LGBTI community.
While laws are being amended at the judiciary front, Sunil Babu is lobbying at the Constituent Assembly, and the LGBTI community of Nepal is making notable progress, issues at the social front things remain more complex.
A gay man I talked with did not want to reveal his identity because he says it would complicate things at home.
“Although I started to be aware about my sexual orientation when I was eleven years old, I still haven’t been able to say it to my parents,” he said.
Now in his twenties and with a stable job, this member of the Blue Diamond Society says the reason for him to keep this secret from his family is, “because they just wouldn’t understand!”
He is not alone though. According to Sunil Babu Pant, among the hundred and forty thousand members of the Blue Diamond Society, only five thousand have revealed their sexual and gender identities to their family.
Pant feels it will take time for the social stigma attached to the LGBTI community to change. As the first and only gay member of the Constituent Assembly, he receives mixed reactions from other CA members.
“Many women members of the Constituent Assembly tell me that they didn’t know that a group more marginalized than they also existed, but many older men accuse me of increasing the number of gays in the country,” he says with a laugh.
Winston Wilde of Monette-Howitz says it takes a whole generation for social acceptance to occur.
“A generation ago, only 25% of college students raised their hand when asked if they had a gay relative, now 50% raise their hand. This doesn’t mean that the population of gays has increased, but the acceptance certainly has,” says Wilde.
BDS states that on an international level eight to ten percent of the population of each country makes up the LGBTI community. Sunil Babu Pant says the case is the same in Nepal. And although he feels Nepal has made great strides towards gaining rights for the LGBTI community, he agrees with Wilde that it may take an entire generation before social acceptance is truly achieved.
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
Sent by Sunil Pant.
Kathmandu, Dec 11: Nepal’s ruling Maoist party, which till a year ago regarded homosexuality as a perversion threatening to corrupt society, will strike a blow for gay rights at the UN later this month, marking a sea-change in the organisation that took up arms to seize power.
Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who is defying the hardliners in his own party to push for a liberal multi-party democracy, has asked the Foreign Ministry and Nepal’s Ambassador to the UN to support a statement that will be tabled at the UN General Assembly this month recognising human rights violations on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Prachanda, a former revolutionary whose once banned party waged a 10-year war on the state to end the monarchy, renewed his commitment to gay rights on Wednesday to a delegation led by Nepal’s only publicly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant.
The Prime Minister’s office also gave the delegation a copy of the order issued by it Monday, asking the appropriate Ministries to support the gay rights statement in the UN initiated by France and supported by a core group of eight more nations, including Japan, the Netherlands and Norway.
“Since then, 55 other countries have pledged to sign the document,” Pant said. “Nepal becomes the 56th.”
The statement, coming in a year that marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, urges for an end to human rights abuse perpetrated on people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The abuses include violence, criminal sanctions, torture and discrimination in accessing economic, social and cultural rights.
The Maoist decision to uphold gay rights comes just a year after its cadres were intimidating homosexuals in Kathmandu valley and asking house owners not to accept gay tenants.
Pant, who was nominated to Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly by the Communist Party of Nepal-United, a partner in the ruling coalition and the first party to have fielded gays and transgenders during the April elections, says the Supreme Court was the first to secure gay rights.
Last year, the apex court recognised gays as “natural people” and ordered the government to end all discrimination against them. Last month, it also sanctioned gay marriages.
Recognising the growing network and clout of Nepal’s sexual minorities, this year three major political parties, including the Maoists, wooed the community by including gay welfare in their election manifestos.
“I wrote to Prachanda in November, urging him to show leadership at the UN on the issues of sexual and gender diversity,” said Pant, who in 2001 founded the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s first gay rights organisation that today is supported by British rock icon Sir Elton John.
“By supporting the France statement, Nepal shows government support for human rights that are set out in its own interim constitution,” he added.
Pant hailed the Maoist government’s efforts on behalf of the sexual minorities.
The budget tabled by Maoist Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai has allocated Nepali Rs 2.5 million (USD 38,800) for a community building that can accommodate 50 homeless transgenders.
In a bigger project under the Poverty Alleviation Programme, about Rs 70 million has been earmarked to uplift the status of marginalised people like women, Dalits (former untouchables) and sexual minorities.
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.