Nepal’s highest court confirms full rights for LGBT people
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.
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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.