So feed your action for gay rights in conservative Asia

Kathmandu/Pahichan – Nepal is one of the first Asian countries transgenders and homosexuals gave constitutional equality is not because the country is so progressive in nature. A look behind the scenes of a clever lobbying campaign by activists there.

BACKGROUND – Pink Tiffany’s is hidden in a dark alley, not far from the tourist Durbar Square, heart of Kathmandu. It’s a nondescript pub, small. But Nepal’s gay, it is a meeting place. The walls are painted red, some guys suck at ease on a large water pipe. Aakanshya Timsina wearing a stylish blue veil and speaks with a heavy right to vote for a woman. In 2016 she was elected as transgender to Miss Pink Nepal: “The Nepalese Supreme Court decided in 2007 to transgenders and homosexuals to be granted the same rights as other Nepalese,” she says. “Finally we can come therefore for who we are.”


Until ten years ago, was in Nepal ten years in prison for “unnatural sex acts”. The decision of the Supreme Court to repeal all laws that lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) discriminates, was also unique to Asia, says gay rights activist Parsu Ram Rai: “Compared to neighboring countries, Nepal has a very progressive constitution. Everyone who applies for a passport, the possibility to tick transgender man or woman next to the traditional options. But society itself is a lot more conservative than politics. ”

Parsu Ram Rai is a small man. He talks a lot, fast and hard. For several years he has worked for Blue Diamond Society. This organization carries out since 2001 campaign to combat the spread of AIDS in the Nepalese countryside. “The continued poverty in the mountains leave many Nepalese girls to India because they do hope to get a job. But ultimately, they often end up as sex workers in cities like Mumbai or New Delhi and they run the risk of being infected. We try to explain to them, “says Ram Rai. “During our campaigns, we noticed that violence against gay and transgender people still seemed much. Therefore, we decided to shift our course and to include LGBT rights in action. ”

gay politician

The headquarters of Blue Diamond Society has a wonderful view of the northeastern part of Kathmandu. The organization shares the property with staff from the British charity Save the Children. Hindu Gods and rainbow flags adorn the walls. “I frequent Amsterdam,” says Ram Rai. “I was there to Canal Pride and I can express myself freely, dancing and drinking. So I know how important gay rights for Europeans. ”

But in the perception of many Nepalese homosexuality is something foreign that is not in the Himalayas. Gay men were beaten, thrown in jail or banned from restaurants because of their sexuality. For this problem to show the activists of Blue Diamond Society sought increasingly the media, held meetings about homosexuality and decided on the basis of the piecemeal has gathered sympathy to file a petition for equal treatment in the Supreme Court.

But the organization puts another tactics. Nepal is indeed a poor country, Ram Rai explained. The state budget therefore relies heavily on donations from foreign charities and, for example, Norwegian, Dutch and American governments: “To put the Nepalese government under additional pressure we started lobbying foreign donors to move them led gay rights as a precondition for the providing assistance. That way we have gotten much faster on the political agenda LGBT rights in Nepal than in richer countries like India is possible, “he says laughing. “The ball is then really got rolling when our president Sunil Babu Pant was elected to the Nepalese parliament. He became the first openly gay politician throughout Asia and gave the Nepalese gay movement more visibility and political weight. ”

Sushila Lama and Aakanshya Timsina, both transgender drinking coffee in a bar in Kathmandu. Both are members of the Nepali gay rights organization Blue Diamond Society. Photographer: Michael RhebergenLGBT Rights Nepal


Most Nepalese parliamentarians responded surprisingly pragmatic on the militant gay activism of Blue Diamond Society, recalls Aakanshya Timsina. Basic political objections to granting LGBT rights were not being there. “But gay couples still can not publicly come out,” she warns. “Bars and Pink Tiffany’s are accepted in Kathmandu. But show is definitely not accepted in the traditional rural areas in public affection. ”

At present, Blue Diamond Society, active in 36 of the 75 districts of Nepal. The information campaigns on AIDS prevention and the dangers of illegal prostitution have become more important now trafficking networks seem to flourish after the 2015 earthquake, Ram Rai says with a worried face. Despite giving the campaigns of many gay activists mistrust. In rural villages will facilitate the organization even suspected prostitution of transgender people by increasing their discussability. “In rural areas, the number of girls into prostitution disappear epidemic proportions. But like homosexuality is a subject about which no one speaks, “sighs the activist.

He pauses, looks at the clouds surrounded by Himalayan peaks in the distance. “That is precisely the conservatism that we want to fight. We cooperate with foreign organizations are committed to transparency. Yet like many people simply do not hear that gay people exist in Nepal. But this fight is about the rights of the community where I part of it. Giving up is not an option. ”