The Perception of Homosexuality by the General Population in Nepal

Basu Guragain/Pahichan -Amazingly, Nepal is one of the LGBTI-friendliest countries not only in South Asia, but in the world as well, at least in political structure.  Our government and our legal system has been very supportive of the LGBTI movement.  This movement was started with the establishment of the very respected organization, the Blue Diamond Society.  Established in 2001, it has been strongly, and successfully, pressing for LGBTI basic rights in Nepal.  Indeed, Nepal is the first country in the world to officially recognize gender diversity, and to make a provision in citizenship and passport affairs for identification of citizens as “other” gender.   In addition, the Supreme Court has handed down landmark decisions for the LGBTI community, banning discriminatory policies or laws, and opening the door to a study of the feasibility of same-sex marriage.

“Third” gender or transgender persons have always existed in our society and in our religious stories, and as a result have always enjoyed a certain level of acceptance in society.  But gay and lesbians persons, who are far more numerous, remain voluntarily hidden because of social intolerance and discriminatory attitudes.  Far from being accepted, gay and lesbian individuals are still widely stigmatized as undesirables or even as mentally ill. Because straight body language and behavior is so easy to mimic, most gay Nepali men and women simply blend in and hide… it’s still very hard for a gay or lesbian to “come out” and be a role model in a society that remains very hostile to them.  Perhaps the biggest related challenge in Nepali society for gay individuals is the very common sham or “camouflage” marriage, a way to appear straight and still lead a hidden gay lifestyle.  But beyond the dishonesty for everyone involved, this unhappy custom leads to an unhealthy society.  Nepali gay men are dangerously unaware of the ease of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections through male-to-male sexual behavior, and a sham marriage is likely to expose not only the gay male, but also his unsuspecting wife, to major health risks.

A recent virulently homophobic Facebook post by Mr. Sujan Babu Poudel suggested exactly this unfortunate social arrangement as an alternative to any genuine positive change in society.

There are three types of people in society:  those who don’t understand LGBTI issues;  those who don’t want to understand the issues; and the third (and most dangerous) group: those who are well-acquainted with the issues but pretend to be uninformed.   Mr. Poudel, in his nasty and abusive opinion piece, thinks homosexuals should embrace heterosexual marriage and procreation, and stop looking for civil rights or social progress.  This is the ultimate selfish choice for a man… stripping the woman involved of any emotional benefit from their marriage and reducing her to a disposable child-bearing machine, while leaving the man to seek selfish and very risky pleasure with furtive male sexual partners.

Nepal has many LGBTI people, some who are now “out” in society and fighting for the rights of their community.   But those few oppressively homophobic persons in society continue to spread false and negative ideas about the LGBTI community.  Nepal has the opportunity to become a great example of a nation where real progress is made; where LGBTI people could become widely accepted by family, by society, and by diverse religions.  Let’s hope homophobic people like Mr. Poudel don’t succeed in pushing us backwards into darkness.