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SC directs Govt to safeguard gay rights

world Updated: Dec 23, 2007 01:29 IST

Nepal's TOP court has directed the government to frame laws to "safeguard the rights" of gays and lesbians so they could "live an independent life" in the highly conservative Himalayan state.

"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-sexual and inter-sex (LGBTI) people are also 'natural persons' though they are not masculine or feminine from the perspective of gender," the Supreme Court said on Friday, adding: "And they should be allowed to enjoy all the rights defined by national and international human rights law and instruments."

So far, the members of the LGBT community, particularly transsexuals have been complaining that they don’t enjoy rights as normal Nepali citizen. “We are not treated as citizens of the country nor are we allowed to vote,” Shankar (also known as Shanti) told Hindustan Times on Saturday.

The court verdict was in response to public interest litigations filed by several NGOs.

The two judges of the division bench — Bal Ram KC and Pawan Kumar Ojha ordered the government to both create a conducive environment for gays and amend the existing laws. Lawyers claimed that the verdict is the first of its kind in Asia.

"So far, no apex court has passed such a verdict," Hari Phuyal, a senior advocate, said, adding that the sexual minorities would be able to travel abroad and exercise their franchise as well.

In the petition, the litigants had also requested to allow same sex marriage. But the apex court emphasised on the need to study the rate of success of same sex marriages and laws on same sex marriages in other countries.

A seven-member committee, headed by a doctor designated by the Ministry of Health would study the possibilities of same sex marriages.

The court also ordered the government to frame laws on same sex marriages on the basis of the committee's findings.

The gay community in Nepal has been demanding their inclusion within the framework of the new constitution, which would be drafted by the Constituent Assembly.

The LGBTI members have also been demanding for reservation in the Constituent Assembly to ensure that their rights are protected while drafting the new constitution.