Nepal’s LGBT community under attack

by Heather Cassell

heather@whimsymedia.com                                                                                                                                                                          Published 01/17/2013

Courtesy: The Bay Area Reporter

Nepal’s LGBT movement is reportedly under attack. Earlier this month, Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s mostly widely known gay man and first out member of Parliament, suddenly alerted the international LGBT community about months of harassment of LGBT leaders and community members by government officials.

The Blue Diamond Society, the LGBT rights organization founded and led by Pant in 2001, hasn’t been able to get its license renewed to allow the organization to operate legally, wrote Pant, in an email interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

Late last week Pant appealed to funders to submit letters of support to members of Nepal’s government to defend his and the society’s reputation and put pressure on the government to renew the organization’s license.

Funders responded with an outpouring of support.

Since September, authorities and members of the media have made inquiries into Pant, a former member of Parliament before it dissolved last May, and the society.

According to media reports, MPs couldn’t come to an agreement on the country’s draft constitution. An election for a new legislative body to draft a new constitution was supposed to happen in November, but the election has come and gone with no resolve and a government in disarray.

Last month, harassment of Nepal’s LGBT community turned into an alleged abduction of one member of the Blue Diamond Society and attempts to abduct two other members, according to Pant. He was also followed by unknown men, Pant wrote in an email on Gays Without Borders January 1.

In the email, Pant documented incidents of authorities and members of the media, in particular Sagarmatha Television, attempting to bribe and harass LGBT individuals working for the society or who are members of the organization.

Last August, “Khoj Khabar,” considered an investigative journalism show on Sagarmatha Television, aired an interview of seven former Blue Diamond staff members who filed a lawsuit charging Pant and the organization with corruption and other charges, according to Pant and media reports.

Since then journalists working for the media outlet reportedly have been asking Blue Diamond staff members and sex workers about the organization’s funders, finances, the quality of Pant’s leadership, and their compensation.

Employees and community members have declined the bribes, according to the email message.

The increased harassment comes at a time when the case against Pant was found to have “no proof,” by government officials after an investigation, according to Pant.

The Blue Diamond Society operates on an estimated budget of $1.25 million annually, supporting 300 programs staffed by an estimated 450 part-time employees at 38 community-based organizations in 40 districts throughout Nepal. Since its start 12 years ago, staff has provided HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and support services; conducted human rights work and advocacy; and provided leadership and skills training, community empowerment, and mobilization through Nepal s Pride festival and arts programs, according to Pant

Last October Pant and the society spearheaded the first South Asian LGBTI Sports Festival. Pant is also the founder of Nepal’s only LGBT travel and tour company, Pink Mountain Travels and Tours.

There has been a severe backlash to Pant’s success.

On Jan. 3, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit held a press conference to continue their attack on Pant and the society, according to Pant.

Pant didn’t attend the news conference but Blue Diamond Society members and LGBT activists did.

Blue Diamond Society members and LGBT activists reported that the seven individuals repeated their ongoing claims against Pant is that he created the “third-gender” or “trans-gender” (sic) category to “make money,” among other alleged corrupt practices and therefore the organization “must be closed down,” wrote Pant.

Nepal’s government officially recognized transgender individuals in 2012.

Chief District Officer Chudamani Sharma stated last month that “we have not found anything wrong at” Blue Diamond Society, according to the documents provided by Pant.

Yet, the officer, at the orders of a high ranking government official, has continued to audit the organization, according to Pant and society attorneys.

“It is shameful that those behind attacks on Sunil and BDS claim to be concerned about HIV/AIDS and for LGBTI (sexual and gender minority) human rights. For they are responsible for physical attacks upon members of LGBTI communities and current blockages of funds,” wrote Augustus Nasmith Jr., who has been traveling from Vermont to Nepal and volunteering for the society since 2007.

Long-standing major funders, such as France’s International, for Sidaction; ARC International, and other organizations that work with the society praised Pant and the organization’s work to combat HIV/AIDS and other health care work and human rights advocacy.

George M. Carter, founder and director of FIAR, described Blue Diamond Society and Pant’s accomplishments, and called the criticism Pant was receiving “merely toxic gossip that may rise to the level of libel,” he wrote in a letter to the government.

This isn’t the first time that Blue Diamond Society services have been interrupted by government officials. In 2010 funds were frozen, halting services and forcing society employees to turn to sex work in order to survive, reported freelance journalist Kyle G. Knight.

The recent attacks on Pant and the society have caused Nepal’s LGBT community to feel a mix of emotions as they continue working toward their rights amidst a chaotic political atmosphere and constant threats.

“Many community members [are] feeling fear, [a] few [are] angry, and few of us caution (sic), but at the same time we are continuing much of same approach and work that we have been doing. The big dreams we have still drives us every day and we look forward every day,” wrote Pant.

To contact Consul General Richard C. Blum, Nepalese Consulate General in San Francisco, 909 Montgomery St., Ste. 400, San Francisco, CA 94133; P:             415-434-1111      ; email skelly@blumcapital.com.

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell,

By bluediamondsociety

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s