Nepal has made much progress in granting rights to LGBTQ community. But there are struggles and room to further treat LGBTQ community with dignity
As an American, I have seen how currently living in the United States is difficult for many minorities, for multiple reasons. But, one group I have seen that is being targeted frequently by the government, certain media, and the public is the LGBTQ+ community—this community is continuously evolving and including new terms and identities. This community is made up of many individuals such as those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, gender non-conforming, gender neutral and pansexual. From violence to discrimination those who identify with this community are under consistent strain and ridicule, but this is not just happening in the US.
Nepal is currently being recognized as a leader for LGBTQ+ rights. They have initiated such actions as acknowledging a third gender, on documents such as voter rolls and passports, to becoming the world’s tenth country to protect LGBTQ+ individuals in their constitution. But, even with these movements there are always struggles, such as the illegality of same sex marriage.
Chaitanya Mishra, a renowned Sociologist, was a part of the 2015 drafting group tasked with writing the same sex marriage legislation. But, despite the report being submitted little to no progress has been made. “I did that report several years ago as part of a team,” Mishra said. “The report has not made any headway in government policies and laws through all these years.”
Despite just being held up in the legislative system, Mishra also comments on absence of push back from the workers of LGBTQ+ community. “Much more saliently and surprisingly, LGBT stakeholders have not at all made the required push to implement the recommendations of the report,” Mishra said.
Many groups continue to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. One such organization that has been majorly involved in lobbying for the community is the Blue Diamond Society. Their mission is to deliver lasting improvements to the lives of sexual and gender minorities in Nepal and all over the world, while, hopefully, creating a society where all sexual and gender minorities can live with equal rights. Pinky Gurung, the President of the Blue Diamond Society, discussed one moment that demonstrated positive movement toward this goal—making of new constitution in 2015, despite having some issues with execution. “The new constitution is very positive,” Gurung said. “We were very happy in 2015 when the new constitution began to include LGBTI rights, but the implementation has been very weak.”
With a new set of rules and regulations that came with the constitution there are gaps in understanding in government agencies and workers. This is reflected in creating difficulties in processes such as altering an ID card. “I got my citizenship card in 2015,” Gurung said. “I went into the office and told them about my citizenship identity card change, and they were confused about how to provide a card for a transgender person. They are not aware about the option the government has provided to the LGBTI people, they are not aware about what the new constitution covers. I had to spend two days in the government office and after two days I finally got my citizenship card. This is just a part of the gender identity fight here.”
This difficulty with government employees and lawmakers present a consistent struggle for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Suvas Pokharel, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the Blue Diamond Society, shared his frustration with those in lawmaking and working for the government.
“There are two types of people generally in government offices,” Pokharel said. “Some are ignorant and the others do not try to understand. They are indifferent. Many times when there are issues with policy making and the people involved is because they are not trying to understand.”
In addition to the legislative aspect of fighting for equality, there are other factors to take into account that are equally influential, such as educating the public. One organization, that is making their mark through education initiative, is Mitini Nepal. Mitini Nepal was the first organization founded in Nepal to work for the rights of lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. They think about the rights of all people in the LGBTQ+ community but specialize in the inclusion of LBT (lesbian, bisexual, transgender) women. A major goal of the organization is to continue fighting for the community to be able to lead their life with dignity and self respect in society. As Executive Director, Sarita KC is familiar with challenges many who identify as LGBTQ+ face. So, in hopes of progressing the nation’s understanding of the community, Mitini Nepal has taken numerous steps toward education. Through the process of visiting schools, they have been able to share their knowledge on proper terminology and the diversity in the community. Not only that, they have helped educators increase their sensitivity and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.
“There was one teacher who did not know much about the community,” KC said. “He told us he only knew about trans women, so he only thought there were trans women. So when he took the sexual orientation class he was surprised by what he learned.” With education being a starting point to increase the knowledge in the community, it is just as important to individually be aware. The societal pressures and expectations can be just as damaging as a lack of education.
“A common challenge we face is society,” KC said. “If you are a girl, you need to play with cooking items and dolls and pink. For men there is a blue color and playing with guns, trucks. It is important to just let them be what your children want to be. You never know what will happen when he or she grows up, and it is up to them what they want to be or what their sexual orientation is.”
Room to improve
The fight for equality and progressive legislation continues for the LGBTQ+ community. There have been successes, such as legalizing same-sex relationships, but the push for further rights, such as same-sex marriage, are still going on. Even with Nepal’s new constitution, which includes provisions of equality, people are still struggling with their identity, violence, and acceptance. This demonstrates that these issues will not be solved only through legislation but through social acceptance. Profiling and discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation can be made illegal, but unless the society is willing to socially cooperate and learn there will always be hurdles for LGBTQ+ community.
“A person should be able to marry a person, no matter who that is, it shouldn’t matter,” KC said. “It will be a great moment in history for us and a great inspiration for those who haven’t come out yet. There have been steps forward but there is always room to grow and we will continue to.”
The author is a journalism student studying at University of Denver. She is currently doing a journalism internship in Nepal