An inspirational gay politician on a visit to India said he is shocked that the world’s largest democracy denies basic human rights to sexual and gender minorities.
Sunit Pant is the only gay MP in Nepal and the head of Blue Diamond Society, an umbrella group for LGBT and HIV groups.
As a member of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, he has used this position to campaign for gay equality.
On a visit to Mumbai this week he marched with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex LGBTI people and made a speech.
He had earlier visited Bangalore and met with trans people who claim they are brutalised by police.
Mr Pant predicted that the gay community would become a powerful political force, and urged them to consider the example of Nepal.
“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,” he said, according to expressindia.com
“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.”
Bangalore police have been accused of arresting and mistreating more than 40 people at a peaceful demonstration.
The conflict reportedly flared when five hijras (working-class, male-to-female, transgender people) were arrested by police on October 20th in what the local Daily News and Analysis called a “drive against the city’s eunuch menace.”
According to Human Rights Watch, police took them to Girinagar police station, verbally abused them, and beat one severely.
Meanwhile, the High Court in Delhi has finished hearing arguments in a suit brought by gay rights activists seeking to overturn a colonial-era law banning “unnatural sex.”
Chief Justice AP Shah has reserved judgement and asked both sides to submit transcripts of their oral arguments by November 17th.
The government of India has been arguing for the retention of Section 377, the law that criminalises same-sex acts.
Section 377 was enacted in 1860 under the British Raj in line with the anti-sodomy laws in England at the time.
The law punishes anyone who “voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” by imprisonment and criminalises a whole range of sexual acts from mutual masturbation, to fellatio and anal sex.
The LGBT community in Nepal, called “sexual minorities” by the Nepalese government, were granted equality with heterosexual citizens in some areas of legislation in December 2007.
In what has been called a landmark piece of legislation, the Supreme Court passed a judgement that said that gays and lesbians were “natural” people, and placed the responsibility for removing homophobic discrimination with the government.
Since then, at least one transgender woman, Chanda Musalman, has been allowed to have “both” written in the “male/female” category on her ID card.