1 - 7 August 2014 #718

Nothing about us, without us

The right to equality of gender and other minorities is under threat from a regressive state
Sunil Babu Pant
In a true democracy the main mantra to ensure inclusion is ‘nothing about us without us’. But, too often in Nepal, for the marginalised it is always ‘there is nothing for us and it’s always without us’.

From 2009-2012, Nepal’s gender minorities were invited for their inputs into national policy and budget. But since then there hasn’t been a single rupee allocated in the budget to support gender minorities. This year, too, the NC-UML coalition left us out of the Red Book.

When taxing citizens the government does not discriminate, but when assuring citizens of their rights, the government wants to know your gender. And if you are third gender, you cannot go to school, you cannot get a passport, you cannot get married, you cannot apply for job, you cannot join the police/army/bureaucracy, you cannot access a loan or development programs, you cannot open your business or register your property.

There has been a worrying trend of sidelining the needs and rights of Nepal’s LGBT population in the last few years, and the government is regressing from its previous progress through activism and Supreme Court decisions.

The Law Ministry, under the NC’s Narhari Acharya, is trying to enact punitive laws that re-criminalise LGBT relationships, completely overturning previous Supreme Court decisions. After the first Constituent Assembly was dissolved in 2012, there is not a single person from the third gender community in the bureaucracy, ministry, parliament or any other decision-making level.

Before it passes any laws about us, the government should talk to the minority gender community.

This new draft provision of civil and criminal codes prepared by the Law Ministry not only defines homosexuality, but also oral and anal sex among heterosexuals, as ‘unnatural’ acts. The definition of rape is narrowed only to women. The notion that only men can be rapists and only women can be victims comes from a deep-rooted patriarchal mindset. These notions seem to be inspired by conservative reversals in India, some western and African countries.

Many third genders are forced into heterosexual marriage, ruining both lives. Codifying such forced and heterosexualised relationships to third genders serves only to create needless suffering to our families and relatives. The notion that third gender and same-sex relationships are unnatural is absurd and wrong, as proven by our historical and religious texts. The more we exclude and isolate LGBT people, the more we hurt everyone. Because if a person has no right to go to school, no right to get jobs, cannot contribute to the economy of the country, cannot contribute to the culture, they become burden to society.

Nepali law is not only a problem for third genders, but also for women, Dalits, Janajatis, people with disabilities and religious minorities. They all need to be included in decision-making, especially in matters that affect them directly.

All Nepalis who believe in equality and tolerance must raise their voices. The right to justice of all marginalised peoples is under threat from a regressive state. They are going to be excluded, margninalised, discriminated against, criminalised and demonised.

Sunil Babu Pant is the founder of the Blue Diamond Society and was a UML member of the first Constituent Assembly.

Read also:

Equality in paper at least, Basil Edward Teo

Hidden in plain view, Ayesha Shakya

Full citizens

Out of the closet and proud of it

Between taboo and tolerance

Queering the pitch, Mallika Aryal

A proud woman, Bhumika Shrestha

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