Nepal’s first openly gay MP, Sunil Pant has single handedly put gay rights on the political map in Nepal since founding the Blue Diamond Society (BDS). This is Nepal’s first and only sexual minorities rights organisation and is working hard with other human rights groups.. Lesbian rights however are lagging far behind those of men and even the men’s are still dire. This is mainly due to cultural factors and the fact that women’s rights in general are already very slim.
Despite this, the BDS is making headway and Nepal is becoming somewhat of a haven for persecuted lesbians.
Nepal’s Supreme Court has even given its nod to same sex marriages. Mr Pant however explains to the Indo-Asian News Service: “Though the court has approved of same sex marriage, the government is yet to enact a law,
“Also, we are unsure if Nepali laws would hold (good) in India.”
In January he received the Monette-Horwitz Trust Awad for fighting homophobia. Awardees received a $2,500 (£1,790) stipend.
In May Mr Pant, founder of Blue Diamond Society, was named as one of five representatives of the Communist Party of Nepal-United in the 601 member new constituent assembly.
Dil Kumari Buduja, the BDS coordinator for the lesbian community estimates there are now about 1,200 lesbians who have come out of the closet while Nepal’s sexual minorities, including homosexuals and transgenders, would number over 200,000.
The once supremely conservative kingdom of Nepal now has four lesbian support groups to work towards legal and other rights of the growing lesbian community: Saino Nepal in Chitwan, Sangini Nepal in Birgunj town, Nawalo Srijana in Nepalgunj and Sahara Samaj in Itahari.
A fifth “Kathmandu Sashakti Samuha” will open this summer in the capital.
Ms Baduja, who prefers to call herself Badri, explained the reason for this to the Indo-Asian News Service: “It would have opened earlier but now we are busy working on the new constitution.”
The Maoists (Nepal’s former guerilla party), won an election last year that legally allowed them to draft a new pro-people constitution by next year. They now aim to create a new democratic and inclusive statute where the voices of sexual minorities can be heard for the first time in a constitution.
Two years ago, Nepal’s army sacked two women recruits for being lesbians but one of the dismissed recruits is currently flighting a court battle against the powerful army and hopes to be reinstated, which is a real indication that times are changing.
Badri believes that the strength of the Nepalese gay community is down to the fact that they are all working together.
Badri explained to the news service: “I went to a gay meet in Cape Town last year,
“I was shocked to see how the communities from India, Bangladesh and even developed nations like Japan behaved. The gays would have nothing to do with the lesbians and the lesbians shied away from the transgenders. In the process, the voice of protest got divided and became weaker.
“But in Nepal, all of us are fighting together. And that’s our strength.”