No man can dare to marry me : Bhumika Shrestha

Kathmandu/Pahichan –

In context of Nepal, Howe common citizens view transgender people?

The way society views transgender people is gradually getting positive. It has been broader and open than before. Earlier, when a transgender person was visible in the streets, the people used to use offensive words and called their names. Now, there has been social change to some extent. To some extent, society has accepted us. Family acceptance and understanding is in increasing rate.

There used to be discrimination and stigmatization at schools and colleges, while now a lot of people have started calling themselves, “I am a part of transgender community” and have started accepting themselves. But this is not enough and complete. There have been few changes, not overall changes. We are a community of gender and sexual minorities who are LGBTI where there are homosexual, bisexual, transgender and intersex. We all are different. There is a wrong understanding that all LGBTI fall under third gender category.

How do we make them understand then?

People are born as male or female. Some of them are not distinctively male and female, they’re intersex. While some people who have expressed and feelings that is opposite to their body, they have a different gender identity.

People call you a transgender model; it’s been a decade that you are working, why haven’t people still understood?

I was recognized to some extent. The way I faced harassments when I was seven years old, is not faced any longer. Now, am I able to live a respectful life. I want to be born as a trans woman even in my next life.  Of course, there is still a problem in some places, but in some cases, there is a problem, but there is no extreme violence. I just want to make it clear that those challenges which we faced would never be faced by any of next generations. But we could not make it understand everywhere. There are different views of different people in the society.

Isn’t it your own flaw that you are not able to make people understand about yourself?

There are four kinds of people in this society. One who understands, one who does not understand, other who understands but pretends not to, and the other who does not want to understand? We are living among these people. I don’t think we are weak in this matter. From 2001 to today, LGBTI movement has made many achievements in Nepal. Our country has set up an example in the world, in case of legal battle.

What is your expectation was with the government?

You heard that LGBTI people are employed in government offices. We are denied from opportunity. If state initiates, it can reach in every town and every village. But state does not do it.

What are the major issues in context of trans people?

All those issues of discrimination and human rights begin from home. If family teaches such culture and accepts LGBTI people, a lot of issues are coming to an end. Identification is our major issues, which we have achieved through citizenship. If there was only a female citizen and a female citizen, we are now getting citizenship as ‘Other’. Passport has also begun, that is a very exemplary task.

Then where is the issue?

We got citizenship as ‘Other’ but the name caused a problem. First, when I took citizenship, it was a man’s name, while taking citizenship as ‘Other’ now, I want citizenship in the name of woman, but citizenship of our country will not be able to change the name. I have taken citizenship as ‘Other’, but they also have men’s name. What a big problem this is, I was nominated as CA member from third parties and also lost the opportunity due to the photographs of men and mysteries in my citizenship. That means that the government made laws but it was not completed.

Another issue is education. There is still a problem with the trans colleagues who have not been admitted to school, college, and admission, based on gender identity. The Education Commission has included the theme of third classics in the new curriculum from Class 6 to 8, but only definition, which is not enough. However, many people do not know about this. It would be better if that was slightly explained, but again challenges come in its delivery to students by teacher.  Our government has not been able to do so easily.

Another issue is of health. Doctors do not understand our problems. In the five-year strategic plan of the Ministry of Health, LGBTI stuffs have been included but not implemented properly.

Let’s talk about homosexual marriage too. On December 10, the Supreme Court ordered legal recognition for homosexual marriage. That order is currently pending at the Ministry of Women since 8 years. The 9 months government is also having problems. A government sparked, the government shifts. The problem of starting from the beginning to another is the point where the issue is.

Similarly, we have not fallen into the legal definition of minority. When young people talk about employment, there is no name for the third person. The citizenship of the citizenship is Section 6 of citizenship, Section 18 is equality, Section 40 is a matter of social security, and law has come without implementation. What is the meaning of law if we keep on discrimination?

So do you ask for equal rights not special rights?

Yes. Every law which is discriminatory must be amended. And equal laws should be established.

What initiative did you initiate from the Blue Diamond Society to establish the rights and recognition of the LGBTI?

If we did not make a call from the streets to the House, then there would not have been so much change in the context of third gender in Nepal. In 2001 we 6 had erected the Blue Dome Society as a volunteer organization. LGBTI was not known much at that time. What did we do, do not display, and rally? We took the risk of stopping in prison until we were beaten. Conversions on every field and body. We brought out the rights of human rights violations, discrimination and violence, and the rights of our rights to media. Police / administration had our program. We received a memorandum in every political party. We are currently organizing human rights and health programs. The work inside our office is out now. We woke up every party, including the President, Prime Minister, the Honorable Speaker and the Constituent Assembly. Some people have also become positive, laws have been, but we have also been initiating the problem that could not be practically implemented.

Are you trying to say that transgender should be allowed to do sex work raising the issue of employment?

No. Please do not get wrong understanding. I am not talking on support of prostitution. I am emphasizing that people need to have right to do work they wish. People must not have problem in living their lives. This is the issue. From a great billionaire to politicians and a rickshaw driver goes to a brothel, but blame transgender to have spread evils. No one tries to find out the causes of transgender people coming to streets for sex working. We do not want to do that is against the law. But where is employment opportunity for LGBTI people?

How did you get attracted to politics?

First, I felt politics like a dirty game. None of my family members are from political background. I had not thought about being involved in politics. First, openly gay parliamentarian was Sunil Babu Panta. He went to the CA Assembly and raised our voice. We became his back support. Then we started to discuss that our issue must be raised in each and every political party. We talked with political parties, and then I was welcomed in Congress.

Have you joined the Congress for the rights of your community?

No. This is not a party’s sole responsibility, but all parties. It has been 9 years in Congress. I am raising LGBTI issues. How far has Congress helped in the issues, are you satisfied?

In the beginning, our issues were not included in party manifesto. Then Congress included it. Now, Maoist party and Tarun Dal have also included it. I am in the central committee of Tarun Dal.

Let’s change the context, When are you getting married?

I do not believe in marriage. First of all, our marriage is not included in the law. I was in relation, but not more now. Some of my friends are in relation. They put sindur and stay fasting on Teej.

Then are you single now?

Yes, I am single now. But men cannot dare to marry me. But I do not believe in marriage. Even if men propose me, I would prefer being into relation, not getting married.

So are you thinking of marriage only after it is legally accepted?

No. I am not in favor of getting married. I am different, but after getting married I will need to stay at home being daughter- in- law. I cannot be tied in that rope. I have a lot of work to do. I want to be free.

Lifelong relationship?

Not yet. But if someone comes, for sure.