Nepal leads on gay rights with international parade | Connect Asia

Nepal leads on gay rights with international parade

Nepal leads on gay rights with international parade

Updated 18 January 2012, 17:45 AEDT

In yet another step forward for the country's gay rights movement, Nepal has held its first international gay parade.

Since legalising homosexuality in 2007, Nepal has cemented its position as being the one of the most progressive countries in terms of gay rights in the region. Third gender identity cards have followed and officially recognised gay marriages may come soon.

Presenter: Helene Hofman

Sunil Pant, parliamentarian and founder, Blue Diamond Society; Subash Pokhrel, gay rights activist, Blue Diamond Society; Ashok Row Kavi, chairperson, Humsafar Trust (India)

(Sound of international gay parade in Nepal)

HOFMAN: This is a rare sight in South Asia. You're listening to Nepal's first ever international gay parade winding through the capital Kathmandu.

At least 500 gay men, lesbians and transsexuals dressed up in colourful costumes sang and danced their way through the streets, cheered on by locals.

Leading the pack - on an elephant - was South Asia's only openly gay parliamentarian, Sunil Pant.

PANT: It's hugely significant and important for Nepal as we making the most progress in terms of gay rights in whole Asia. This is something very important for Nepali gay, lesbian, transgender community [...] people coming from remote areas, countryside. We also have many participants from India, from Japan, from US, from Denmark, even from South America.

HOFMAN: And all had one common message to deliver - a plea to the international community to end discrimination against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

On that issue, Nepal is widely recognised as one of the most progressive in the region.

Back in 2007, after the monarchy was abolished, the Nepalese government legalised homosexuality.

Soon after, the government agreed to issue 'third gender' identity cards and a year later, thanks to a petition filed by Mr Pant, the Supreme Court ordered that gay rights be enshrined in the new constitution.

An ongoing political deadlock over the election of a leader to succeed prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has delayed the enactment of that constitution, but the passages relating to gay rights have gone largely unopposed.

PANT: The society in general has always been tolerant, so for gays, lesbians, transgenders also, we didn't have much of the problem from the general population compared to other countries like India, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh. So, it's quite easily embraced and it's more improving these days, especially after the legal and political recognition. The social acceptance is also growing.

HOFMAN: But activists tied to Mr Pant's Blue Diamond Society say there is still some way to go.

Before 2008, they were frequently approached by members of the community who claimed they had been blackmailed, publicly beaten, and sexually abused by members of the security forces.

Those incidents are now in the past, but activist Subash Pokhrel says it's still not easy being gay in Nepal.

POKHREL: It has increased a bit in a positive sense but, although we have many problems still like discrimination. It's social value. Still it has not improved. Slowly we are sensitising the people, government people, employers and other aspects like hospitals and other places, so in that sense we have a lot of things to do.

HOFMAN: But Nepal is still the envy of gay and transgender rights activists around South Asia.

In neighbouring India, for example, homosexuality was legalised just over a year ago in July 2009, with discrimination still rife in some parts of the country.

Ashok Row Kavi chairs the Humsafar Trust, a community based organisation which campaigns for the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people in India.

KAVI: Nepal was never colonised by the British, so it didn't have laws marginalising queer sexuality for nearly 200 years, so it was easier to bring around change in Nepal. The point is things are happening in India and Nepal, the only thing is India is a much bigger screen. It's huge. It's not even in India. In Nepal it's more regular and it's going on at a very health pace, whereas in India the progress is uneven, but it's something to be encouraged.


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