Kathmandu (Pahichan) may 30 -LGBTI people, alongside allies and friends, in Nepal marked/celebrated IDAHOT this year in an extended and elaborated three days of events nationwide. On the 15th of May Blue Diamond Society organized a “meet the press” event, inviting media representatives at the Reporters Club in Kathmandu for an interaction program with activists. The program very interesting, various LGBTI representatives spoke of LGBTI rights, the need for LGBTI representatives to be included in the Constituent Assembly (CA), and reiterated long-held demands that Nepal’s new constitution ensures human rights for LGBTI people.
Activists also asked government to allocate budget to LGBTI community support projects, and ensure equal access to education and equal opportunities for employment. At least 7 national TV channels broadcasted the events and various radio and print media covered the news of that meet the press event – the kick-off for the broader IDAHOT events around the country.
On the morning of May 16th, the British High Commission in Kathmandu invited LGBTI representatives from various organizations, raised a rainbow flag on the premises, and DCM Guy Harrison spoke about British government’s commitment to support LGBTI rights. Former CA member and founder of BDS Sunil Babu Pant spoke highlighting the importance of IDAHOT, and thanked British government for their support while asking them to do more to protect LGBTI rights in Nepal.
Later in the afternoon, Blue Diamond Society organized a gala event at the National Theater in the center if Kathmandu, inviting various families, communities, media, other civil society groups. The event featured cultural dances, usually traditionally performed by metis/third genders (male born TGs), and the “Catwalk To Freedom” — a ramp show featuring various third gender models, with unique educational structure and concept: First, TG models cat-walked onto the ramp, one by one, as if they were caged, chained, masked, hands and legs tied, hand cuffed, mouth taped symbolically show they were denied mobility and expression, and forced to remain in the closet while facing a lot of violence. One by one, while walking in the ramp, the models broke themselves from the cage, tearing off the chains, pulling the tape off their mouths, breaking of the hand cuffs, etc., and trying to encourage others too.
LGBTI groups from all 5 development regions of Nepal brought their ethnic dance performances. A musical performances showing very vivid experience of LGBTI facing stigma and discrimination, audience were touched by the performances.Then a play was staged by Silpi Theater Troupe, portraying how in-laws to-be refuse to marry a girl because they discovered her brother was third gender, then the third gender was excluded from her home by her parents, end up leaving the village. She (the third gender) faced discrimination while traveling by bus to Kathmandu, could not find room to rent, could not find job, ended up working in dance bar with low pay and abusive owner, and joined a college only face bullying from classmates – a fairly typical story of a TG facing discrimination and exclusion in day to day life in Nepal. As Nepal has progressed some legal rights and community empowerment, the TG character was able to find peers and organizations to support her. She is empowered and not just settled in harsh city like Kathmandu but also become compassionate to help others in need. Overall it was a powerful performance with positive messages about support and inclusion and hope for the future.
Sunil Babu Pant gave a inspirational and encouraging speech, asking every one to remain united and work hard. He talked about the unfair comparison many may do out of ignorance between the two completely different kinds of success: one can be easily successful to destroy something in a short time without skills, qualification and hard work, but to be successful to create something beneficial to mankind and build a movement and sustain is very different and need a lot of hands, minds and hearts to work together. Pant also invited a mother, Saru Bisht, to the stage, honored her for her support and fight against all odds to give her two third gender children the citizenship ID cards according to their gender identity and asked all parents to see her as a role model.
Several dignitaries including representatives from National Human Rights Commission, the Norwegian Embassy, UNAIDS, and Pinky Gurung, BDS’s current President wished courage to all LGBTI communities and expressed their solidarity for IDAHOT.
On day 3, BDS held an informal Interaction program among LGBTI members — many new members joined the events, shared their experiences and stories of coming out as well as the ugly, the bad, the OK, the good, and the extra-ordinarily happy experience of living as an LGBTI person in contemporary Nepali society, followed by food and a dance party.
On day 4, BDS coordinated a consultation with 50+ supreme court lawyers on “the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Pant v. Nepal, the new Constitution, the proposed draft civil and criminal code (the proposed civil and criminal coed is dangerously regressive and needs urgent intervention), LGBTI communities needs with regards to legal counselling/litigation and Nepal Bar Association’s role to safeguard LGBTI rights and legal support to LGBTI people.
After the consultation Nepal Bar association expressed their commitment to support LGBTI cause and offered free legal services to Blue Diamond Society and LGBTI members anywhere in Nepal. They also expressed their concern over the proposed draft civil and criminal code which are unbelievably regressive and suggesting to criminalize sexual identities and behaviors which would render LGBTI people criminals — the NBA said this was “unacceptable”.