Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Out in Asia: Gay Equality, Nepal

Progress towards queer equality has been remarkable in recent decades, with gay marriage or civil unions now achieving legal recognition in a rapidly increasing number of countries, and protection from discrimination and hate crimes being written into many statute books. Few countries though, have seen a turnaround quite as dramatic as that in Nepal, which has gone from persecution to imminent constitutional protection in just ten years.

First Gay Pride in Nepal, 2010

Gay marriage has been promised, and legal provision for it will shortly be built into the new constitution which is currently being drafted – but even ahead of the legal formalities, same-sex marriages are being conducted. Much of the credit for the remarkable transformation should go to the Blue Diamond gay  rights group, as Thai Indian reports:

Gay rights movement celebrates decade in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Sep 12 (IANS) The only country in South Asia to recognise same sex marriages, Nepal Sunday celebrates a decade of the gay rights movement pioneered by a single group amid widespread persecution.
The Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal’s first gay rights organisation founded in 2001 by the country’s first openly homosexual MP Sunil Babu Pant, has been at the forefront of the sexual minorities’ right movement with such innovative campaigns as a tourism agency promising gay weddings and honeymoons in the lap of Mt Everest and an annual gay pride march in the capital.
On Sunday it celebrates its 10th birthday by holding, for the first time in the entire South Asia, the Mr Lesbian pageant as another remarkable way of spreading awareness about the diversity among the sexual minorities.
“People have this perception of homosexuals as effeminate men wearing women’s clothes,” says Pant, the recipient of several international gay rights awards. “We thought it is time to educate society about the diversity in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”
Every year, Nepal hosts dozens of beauty pageants for women and now, there is a growing number of contests for men as well. About three years ago, BDS started the Miss Pink contest for transgenders - men who say they are women trapped in a male body - and the winner goes to the final leg of the contest in Thailand to represent Nepal.
“But there are also transgenders who were born female but consider themselves male,” says Pant.
“Male” transgenders started hitting the headlines from 2007 after a trainer in the Nepal Army, Bhakti Shah, was dismissed along with another woman recruit, for an alleged lesbian relationship.
BDS is helping Shah to fight her dismissal in court and get reinstated.
Like the Nepal Army, their arch foe, the opposition Maoist party has also been homophobic. Its People’s Liberation Army dismissed a combatant - now calling herself Manish - for the same reason.
This year, Ramina Hussain, a traffic constable, was suspended after her partner’s family brought a charge of kidnapping in a bid to separate the couple.
However, after intervention by BDS and the media, Hussain has been reinstated.

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