KATHMANDU, Dec 3: Gender and sexual minorities have to suffer abuse in foreign employment as well. A 40-year-old Sunita Lama is one of the victims of such abuse. Although biologically born a male, Sunita considers herself a woman. She prefers to be known as Sunita. While going for foreign employment, she changed to a male identity.
“About 17 years ago, I went to Dubai for foreign employment. When I reached there as a man, I had to endure a lot of insults,” Sunita said, “While working in the company, all my friends used to abuse me using derogatory words. While teasing me, many friends even asked me to undress.”
She said her friends would ask her if she was a male or a female. “It seems like yesterday that my employers discriminated against me and sent me back home after not even a year of going abroad,” she said.
She had gone abroad because of weak financial status of the family. Even though 14 children were born to two mothers in the family, Sunita preferred to identify herself as a member of the LGBTIQA+ community.
She said that she earned more than Rs 200,000 in Dubai and bought land in Chitwan from that money. She said that even though her employer in Dubai sent her back home as a 'transgender', she was paid for the period she worked. She complained that her passport was suspended so that she could not go abroad because she belonged to the LGBTIQA+ community. In time, Sunita met Sunil Babu Panta.
“I came to know about my sexuality because of Sunil Babu Panta. I internalized myself as a woman, even though I was acting like a man. I have always been fascinated by women's makeup. I used to find myself friendly with women's clothes,” she said, “But I was introduced as a man by this society. I stopped wearing men's clothes. I felt that I was a woman. So I started wearing women's clothes.”
One day she met a friend like herself. Through that friend, she went to Thamel in Kathmandu. Recalling Thamel's first night, she said, “I was really beautiful that day. I looked like a girl. There were many like me.”
In the days that followed, Thamel's clients and atmosphere attracted Sunita. As the days passed, she worked for a decade and a half in an organization working for sexual and gender minorities.
She also ran a hotel business in Kathmandu. Her business, which ran well in the beginning, did not sustain. “Initially, the hotel was doing very well,” she said, “One day, a friend introduced herself as a transgender to a customer who had come to the hotel. After that, customers stopped visiting the hotel.”
She narrated the experience of meeting people with different thoughts as the days went by. She said that slowly society started to understand them.
She also said that she opened an organization called 'Mayako Sansar' while working and advocating for sexual and gender minorities. “This organization listens to the problems faced by sexual and gender minorities, female and male sex workers and advocates their rights.”
Sarita KC, the executive director of Mitini Nepal, said that gender and sexual minorities who went for foreign employment had to face many problems. She added that they are being sent back home from abroad because they are gender and sexual minorities. She said, “It is not easy for the people belonging to this community to go abroad.”
People of this community try to hide their identity and go abroad. But Sarita said that agents and manpower companies would not allow them to go abroad at the beginning after knowing that they belonged to the LGBTIQA+ community. Gender and sexual minorities said that even if they go abroad with their identity hidden, they are tormented by the fear of revealing the truth.
According to Kabiraj Upreti, information officer of the Department of Foreign Employment, people from gender and sexual minority communities are generally not included in the demands of employers.