Saurav Jung Thapa/Pahichan – At the invitation of the U.S. State Department, HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse spent a week in Kathmandu supporting ongoing efforts of LGBTQ Nepali activists and allies to ensure that last year’s LGBTQ-inclusive constitution is transformed into supportive laws and policies. While in Nepal, Rouse was able to share experiences from the American LGBTQ movement and ideas on how advocates can work with government leaders to advance the commitments contained in the country’s new constitution.
Nepal’s new constitution includes provisions that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender or sexual minority status. Despite this recent victory, LGBTQ people in Nepal face a range of challenges, including a lack of visibility, lack of official recognition of same-sex relationships and the challenges in accessing health and HIV services for transgender people. Nepali LGBTQ rights groups such as Blue Diamond Society and CORE Nepal are working to change this by engaging with government officials, the judiciary, the media and other civil society groups.
“Nepal is a beautiful country filled with caring people,” Rouse said. “It was both an honor to share perspectives and a privilege to meet face-to-face with Nepal’s leaders and especially with LGBTQ Nepalis. While geographically a great distance away, I felt so connected to Nepal and its people. We are one human family.”
U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Alaina Teplitz hosted a dinner reception for Rouse at her residence. The Attorney General, Home Secretary and a variety of civil society and LGBTQ leaders attended the dinner.
Senior staff and board members from Nepal’s largest LGBTI organization, Blue Diamond Society, met with Rouse and briefed him on their work and successes, including the Supreme Court verdict in 2007 that granted LGBTQ people wide protections and rights. Rouse also met with board members at CORE Nepal, an organization working on LGBTI rights, with a focus on lesbian and trans men issues.
Rouse met with officers at Nepal Police Headquarters to discuss bias-motivated crimes, a former attorney general to discuss LGBTQ constitutional rights, members of the youth councils of various political parties, representatives from 14 South and Central Asian countries at a model U.N. conference and attended a presentation by Search for Common Ground/USAID of “Singha Durbar,” a 13-part TV series that included an openly gay character.
The trip ended with Rouse marching at the head of the annual Gaijatra Nepal Pride Parade. He marched alongside former Nepali first lady and member of parliament Hisila Yami, U.S. Ambassador Teplitz, LGBTQ activists, diplomats and allies. About 1,000 people participated in the march which started in the tourist district of Thamel and ended in the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Basantapur Square which was damaged by last year’s devastating earthquakes.
HRC’s trip to Nepal is part of HRC Global’s ongoing work across the world to support local activists in their efforts to improve the lives of LGBTQ people. For more information on our work, visit hrc.org/Global.