Current Affairs

Elton John still standing with Nepalese gay community

Tony Grew July 24, 2007
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The Elton John AIDS Foundation has expressed its support for the work of the Nepal’s only gay rights organisation, the Blue Diamond Society.

In a statement to be sent to government departments in the Himalayan country, the foundation’s executive director Robert Kay said they were proud to be associated with BDS’s work on safe sex education.

Mr John today revealed his guilt at not speaking up for gay rights earlier in his career.

“I have to speak my mind because as a gay man now I have a responsibility to. I sat back too long,” he said.

“When Act Up were going in and trying to change the face of AIDS awareness in America because nobody else was doing it, I sat back and did nothing.”

Since deciding to speak up, however, his Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised more than $125m (£63m).

He describes the charity as the most important part of his public life. It supports programmes in 55 countries, including Nepal.

Today the foundation defended a Blue Diamond Society programme it funds, designed to stop the spread of AIDS, after it was vilified by government officials and other charities as ‘promoting’ homosexuality.

Gay rights organisations also condemned Krishna Bhatta, the Dhangadi public health officer.

The Times of India reports that Krishna Bhatta, the Dhangadi area public health officer, said at a controversial meeting earlier this month that there were no gay or transgender people in Dhangadi and therefore, the BDS care and support programme was “absolutely unnecessary.”

Mr Kay said:

“Men who have sex with men, transgender communities and other sexual minorities are made far more vulnerable to HIV infection when they are forced to live their lives in secret by a society that denies or condemns their existence.

“BDS is working to inform these communities about HIV/AIDS and their rights and support those who are HIV positive to access appropriate treatment and care services.”

He called on the Nepalese government to take action to protect the rights of gay and trans people.

Mr Kay’s intervention comes at a critical time in the fight for LGBT rights in Nepal.

Elections are due to be held in November, when a new constitution will be voted on. Gay rights activists are demanding they be protected.

In April the Communist Party of Nepal was urged by Human Rights Watch to stop anti-gay violence by its cadres and renounce anti-gay rhetoric.

The former rebel Maoists are now part of the Nepalese government

Maoist soldiers had detained a woman and a teenage girl accused of having a sexual relationship and tried to force them to become Maoist soldiers.

Human Rights Watch said the kidnapping shows the need for all parties in Nepal to endorse protections for full equality, including for lesbians and gays, in the new constitution to be drafted later this year.

On November 21, 2006, an agreement between Nepal’s coalition government and the Maoists ended 10 years of fighting.

Since signing the peace accord, the Maoists have joined the interim government.

“As Nepal tries to recover from a decade of conflict, its leaders should make it clear that no one’s rights are disposable,” said Jessica Stern, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

“Abusing women for their sexuality and forcibly recruiting children are simply unacceptable in a new Nepal.”

The attacks were in stark contrast with commitments made by Hisila Yami, a Maoist member of parliament and the Minister for Infrastructure in Nepal’s interim government.

In January 2007, at a programme organised by the BDS, Yami stated that the party had recently adopted a policy “not to encourage homosexual behaviour but not punish homosexuals either.”

However, other recent statements by Maoist leaders have painted a different picture.

In December 2006, Maoist senior leader and Minister of Local Development Dev Gurung said publicly that:

“Under Soviet rule and when China was still very much a communist state, there were no homosexuals in the Soviet Union or China.

“Homosexuality is a production of capitalism. Under socialism this kind of problem doesn’t exist.”

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