Being LGBTI in Nepal
Today, when we talk about love and inclusion, we cannot dare to forget about the dynamics of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community. Nepal which is considered to be an underdeveloped country in terms of economy even today is regarded as one of the most progressive nation in South Asia when it comes to rights and acceptance of LGBTI community.
However, there can be large difference in what seems to be the reality and what truly the reality is, so in order to know how the people inside of this community feel about their existence and acceptance in Nepalese society, we interviewed representatives from within each of the categories of the community to gain insights on how they consider their status quo to be like.
According to an USAID report on ‘Being an LGBT in Nepal’ which was published on 2007, there existed over more than 50 organizations related to LGBT issues in the country which provided services to 40 out of 75 districts then (the number of districts now is 77). (UNDP, USAID (2014). Being LGBT in Asia: Nepal Country Report. Bangkok.)
Interestingly in the year 2014, the government of Nepal (Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs), issued a form that included a Third Gender Option. Also, in the same year, the Ministry of Education included the issues of the LGBTI community in the secondary level (grade 6, 7 and 8) and University level education.
The Status Quo of Lesbian community in Nepal:
The current scenario of lesbians in Nepal is not satisfying. Though lot of famous celebrities in Nepal are coming out and declaring their sexual orientation being that of a lesbian, people have the stigma that social acceptance for lesbian community in our society does exist.
Lesbians in the LBGT community are struggling to express their identity. Lesbians face family rejection, are forced to leave their jobs or end up taking up menial jobs to make a living in absence of proper guidance, counseling and support. In these areas lesbians need ample support and guidance to become self-reliant and live with dignity.
One major challenge for the ladies who belong to the lesbian community is that they are usually ignored and avoided by their heterosexual female friends because they believe that their lesbian friends will try to force them upon themselves.
To clarify about the existence of this problem, Ms, Laxmi Ghalan, the President of Mitini Nepal stated “The reason why our female friends leave us or stop supporting us once we declare our sexual orientation is because of their consciousness about their prestige in the society. If I am close friends with any of the females while the society is aware of the fact that I belong to the lesbian community, they will regard my female friend to be my new girlfriend or my new partner and they will automatically associate my heterosexual friend to be a member of the lesbian community.”
This narrow minded perspective by the society has always managed to hinder friendships between the people of lesbian community and the heterosexual community thus creating a gap between the two, ultimately leading to other major problems.
The other major astounding fact about being a lesbian here in Nepal is that acceptance rate for Gay males is much higher than acceptance level for female lesbians given the patriarchal nature of the society. “Patriarchy is one major problem of our community and it has existed for so many years that it has left no sector untouched not even LGBTI community thus making it all the more challenging for homosexual females who have a double faced sword where they have to fight for their rights both as females and as members of the not so widely accepted LGBTI community.”
Is it really easy to be a Gay in Nepal?
On the auspicious date of December 21, 2007 the Honorable Supreme Court of Nepal made the progressive decision of including LGBTI members as the natural citizens of the country.
However, Mr. Bishwaraj Adhikari, Nepal’s first Mr. Gay Handsome 2013, and a Gay Rights Activist from Blue Diamond Society, said “The government of Nepal has made the rules and regulations that are going to be beneficial for the country and not particularly for our community.”
He further explained “Today, we the community members of LGBTI community are given the identification of ‘Others’ in various government and official forms. However, that identity of ‘Others’ doesn’t really align with who I truly am. My sexual identity is that of a man and I will always be of a man, my sexual relation choices however are different but that in no way means that there is a change in my sexual identity itself.”
He clarified “This right of a sexual identity as that of an ‘Other’ has been granted easily because it benefits the government either in a direct or an indirect way as now I will be liable to pay taxes. But the rights that would directly benefit me, for instance, the legalization of same sex marriage, has not been given yet and have been continuously overlooked and been claimed as unnecessary.”
Bisexual: The most undermined and crushed category amongst the LGBTI community:
Bisexual is the most underrepresented, undermined and bullied community among the LGBTI community itself. Bisexual community includes those people who are sexually and mentally attracted to both males and females and they desire sexual relation with both female and male categories of gender identity.
While ongoing the research for the article, it was astounding to find that no member who belonged to the bisexual community was actually willing to open about their identity. The fear of how they would be treated by their family members and even their life partners after knowing about their sexual identity kept them from speaking about their sexual orientation. This, in itself proved how the bisexual community is subjugated in our society itself.
As said by President of Inclusive Forum of Nepal (IFN) Mr. Badri Pun, “The state and the society has not yet wholeheartedly accepted the people who proudly declare themselves to be the members of LGBTI community so for us to expect the growth of bisexual community where the people themselves are not ready to come out and speak for themselves, it is going to take a long time. Bisexual people themselves don’t held pride and are hesitant towards their sexual orientation so their acceptance in the society is like building a castle in the air.”
The saddest fact about this community as stated by Mr. Badri, who is also the leading representatives of transgender male is “The proportion of bisexual community is the highest in the LGBTI community whereas the leading representatives who can lead the community are scantily available” and we know that a society is as good and as popular as its leaders are.
Transgender Community: No dignity or no acceptance?
Transgender women are also known as metis in the Nepalese community. Though transgender community is the most visible and the most known category amongst the LGBTI community, the harm and subjugation on them has been age old.
In 2004, a police officer had demanded a transgender women to sexually please him by giving him oral sex and then brutally murdered her. (Rose, (2016, August 19), LGBTI Rights in Nepal, Progress but not Perfect).
This case of harassment by the police showed how brutal even the security department of Nepal has been towards the LGBTI community of Nepal.
Ms. Pinky Gurung, the President of Blue Diamond Society Nepal, a transgender female cited a real-life example of how harassment takes place towards the transgender people. She explained how the transgender people due to lack of acceptance in the social and corporate culture are not given respectable jobs in organizations as a result of which they are usually forced to sell their bodies and work as sex workers. She said “I remember an incident where transgender women were humiliated and beaten up by hotel owners in Nepal and they were accused of being characterless people.”
The community of people who hit and humiliated the transgender women suggested them to work in dignified places and build positive reputation for themselves. However, when Ms. Gurung asked the hotel owners to give respectful jobs to the same category of women whom they hit a while ago, none of them took the initiative to do so which showed how these people are viewed and subjugated even though the society claims themselves to be progressive and accepting with the changing laws.
Not only the society, but even the transgender people themselves don’t take their identity as a dignified one and when they realize they belong to the Trans community, it becomes an indigestible fact for them.
Ms. Gurung stated “Self- acceptance is still big deal for people inside of the transgender community. A transgender person usually tries to fit himself/herself in the box of a male or a female because they don’t understand the dynamics of transgender people. However, what is often misunderstood is that there is a large difference that exists even in the normal male/female community and the transgender community. Both the physical and mental orientation of a transgender person is going to be different from that of a regular male or a female and when people feel that they share the characteristics that belongs to that of a transgender community instead of a male or a female, they question their identity, they question their existence and they don’t digest this fact really well.”
Intersex Community: Full of question marks!
Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. (Regmi, Esan (2016), Stories of Intersex People from Nepal. Kathmandu)
Mr. Esan Regmi, the writer of the book ‘Stories of Intersex People from Nepal’ and Intersex Human Rights Activist, as similar to Mr. Bishwaraj’s thoughts reiterated his dissatisfaction towards introduction of ‘Others’ as a common term to indicate anyone from LGBTI community.
He stated how ‘Others’ doesn’t explicitly and clearly align with his sexual orientation. He said “The government needs to break down the ‘Other’ category into different segments for different communities of LGBTI to make it more representative and inclusive.”
The word ‘Others’ doesn’t give any valid sexual identity to people from LGBTI community but rather produces a feeling of abnormality as the word itself suggests and now it is time for the government to break down the category of others into different segments as well while educating people about it.
The most surprising fact about Intersex community as explained by Mr. Regmi is “The prestigious medical doctors for today who had grown in the earlier centuries have been born and brought up with the stigma that only male and female category of sexual identity exists and hence when intersex people are presented in front of them for treatment purposes, the medical doctors find it difficult to treat them and accept them as patients.”
Mr. Regmi further clarified “The medical doctors who come across patients that due to intersex nature have unclear reproductive organs actually suggest parents to fix their kids and convert them into a particular gender rather than promoting Intersex community the hazardous results of which have to be bore by the child who has been treated.”
The child whose reproductive organs and genitals are fixed by the medical doctor is usually in question of their sexual identity as their biology, their physicality and their mentality all belong to different categories and finding out their identity itself becomes a traumatizing experience for them.
Having analyzed the perspectives and insights of people who are inside the group of LGBTI community, it wouldn’t be wrong for us to state that in comparison to other South Asian countries, Nepalese laws are very progressive and favorable to the people of LGBTI community, however, the social perspective along with strict implementation of laws is a must, for the people of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community people to become truly free in their thoughts and to be able to express and live as they are.
Article by: Mahima Poddar