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Nepal's homosexuals are 2007's winners

The most remarkable gain for the homosexual, lesbian and transgender community came at the fag end of the year with the SC acknowledging their right to be treated at par with men and women.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2007 14:05 IST

With its political parties failing to provide good governance and hold elections, and the Maoists continuing with violence despite signing a peace pact, Nepal's gay community has emerged as the only winners of the year that saw the country suffering from a series of dismal failures.

The most remarkable gain for the homosexual, lesbian and transgender community came at the fag end of the year with the Supreme Court acknowledging their right to be treated at par with men and women.

On Friday, Nepal's top court, in answer to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed seven months ago by Blue Diamond Society, the kingdom's lone organisation fighting for the rights of the sexual minorities, gave a landmark judgment recognizing them as a part of a third gender which was created by nature and therefore entitled to all the rights enjoyed by men and women.

"It is a great advocacy tool for us," a jubilant Sunil Pant, president of the society, said after Judges Balaram KC and Pawan Kumar Ojha issued the verdict.

"In a traditional country like Nepal, it is fantastic that the Supreme Court took such a progressive and liberal decision. Very few developing countries have such support for gay rights. Nepal will now provide an example to other nations," Pant added.

In Nepal's feudal society, where homosexuals are considered an aberration and are disowned by their families and refused jobs by employers, the court has ordered the government to let sexual minorities live in dignity, to have equal citizenship rights, including right to property, right to education and employment.

The judges have also ordered the government to make new laws and till they are enacted, amend existing laws to ensure sexual minorities are not discriminated against.

They have also ordered the formation of a committee comprising officials from health, law and other ministries, police, and the National Human Rights Commission to address gay issues.

"Now homosexuals will have the confidence to claim other rights," said Ganesh Shah, a legislator from the United Left Front, who is among the rare politicians supporting the community's growing movement for their rights.

"We are going to ask parliament to amend existing laws to safeguard their rights," he added.

The judgement comes as a shot in the arm for the community that is regularly harassed by police and ostracised by government organisations.

Earlier this year, police arrested a group of gays in the capital because they were carrying condoms.

Though gays joined the public protests against King Gyanendra's regime last year, they were set upon by Maoist guerrillas.

The dreaded youth wing of the Maoists this year began a crackdown on the community, warning house owners not to let out rooms to gays.

The community also suffered at the hands of the Nepal Army that this year dismissed two women following allegations that they were lesbians.

However, the community blossomed in the cultural sector.

British pop icon Sir Elton John, whose foundation has funded Blue Diamond Society's anti-AIDS programmes, gave an extra boost to them by linking them to his website.

Nepal now has its first television show hosted by a transgender in which leading politicians have taken part and the country saw its first gay film festival being held this year.

For the first time, a transgender went to Bangkok to take part in the Miss Transgender pageant - the sexual minorities' answer to Miss World, and in eastern Nepal, a filmmaker has started making the first Nepali movie on homosexuals.