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Chasing a rainbow in rainbow nation

Pressure to conform to societal norms and be ‘normal’ affects our lives significantly. Not surprisingly as a teenager growing up in an orthodox Hindu family in rural Nepal, Basant also tried to fit in — but something was amiss.

world Updated: May 17, 2010 01:34 IST
Utpal Parashar

Pressure to conform to societal norms and be ‘normal’ affects our lives significantly. Not surprisingly as a teenager growing up in an orthodox Hindu family in rural Nepal, Basant also tried to fit in — but something was amiss.

Wearing boys’ clothes and playing football didn’t interest him. He is confused no more and doesn’t try to conform. Eight years after leaving home, Basant, now 24, has transformed to Basanti and is a busy beautician in Kathmandu.

The story, however, is not all that positive for Nepal’s estimated one million plus sexual minority population which includes lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, trans-gendered and inter-sexed — all clubbed as LGBTIs.

Nepal became Asia’s first rainbow nation after a 2007 Supreme Court verdict declared LGBTIs as normal. But political turmoil has delayed the new constitution and also hampered change in discriminatory laws against sexual minorities.

As wait for new laws continues, Basanti and those like her continue to face discrimination. Sometimes they try to shatter norms of normality by spreading awareness, holding rallies and seminars. Since 2006, sexual minorities in Nepal under the banner of Blue Diamond Society — Nepal’s biggest organisation for LGBTI rights- — have been marking May 17 (the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO)) by staging candlelight marches and panel discussions.

This year they are organising a weeklong media campaign to highlight lives of LGBTIs, attitude of public and rights that need to be guaranteed in the new constitution.

“With the parliament drafting a law recognising same sex marriage and likelihood of the new constitution getting promulgated, 2010 is a very crucial year for Nepalese LGBTIs,” says Sunil Babu Pant, Asia’s lone gay lawmaker and founder of Blue Diamond Society.

The campaign would end on May 17 with the premier of Beauty and Brain in Action, a World Bank-funded film by British filmmaker Catherine Donaldson that peeps into lives of LGBTIs in Nepal using a beauty contest as a platform.

“As Nepal attempts to write a new constitution there is a chance of change. This is the story of a community gaining confidence to confront prejudice and tell society they are natural human beings,” writes Catherine.

Basanti, Pant and many others are hoping that armed with legal rights, they would be able to change societal norms and attitudes towards them.