Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another Giant Leap For GLBT Rights In Nepal

AFP - France
December 21, 2007

Nepal Supreme Court Orders Government To Guarantee Gay Rights

KATHMANDU (AFP) -- Nepal's Supreme Court Friday ordered the government to enact laws to guarantee the rights of gays and lesbians, who have long complained of discrimination in the highly conservative Himalayan nation.

"The government of Nepal should formulate new laws and amend existing laws in order to safeguard the rights of these people," the judges said in their ruling.

"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex are natural persons irrespective of their masculine and feminine gender and they have the right to exercise their rights and live an independent life in society," the judges said in the ruling, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

The court also ordered the government to form a committee to study existing laws and provisions of foreign countries on same-sex marriage and prepare laws to give it legal recognition in Nepal.

Rights activists hailed the ruling as a landmark decision.

"It's a very encouraging and progressive decision. We all feel we are liberated today," Sunil Babu Pant, president of the Blue Diamond Society which works on behalf of sexual minorities in Nepal, told AFP.

The society along with three other groups had filed a joint petition at the Supreme Court seeking legal status and rights for sexual minorities in April 2007.

"There were no specific laws to protect the rights of sexual minorities but the Supreme Court's decision has opened the doors to enjoy our rights," said Pant.

There are no official figures on sexual minorities but rights group estimate that homosexuals and transgender people account for nearly 10 percent of Nepal's 27 million population.

Although homosexuality is not listed as a crime under Nepali law, "unnatural sex acts" can be punished by up to a year in prison.

"Now it's the government's responsibility to make new laws to guarantee our rights and we will put pressure on the government to act on the decision," Pant said.

His organisation was founded in 2001 to address the needs of sexual minorities, and has received financial support from singer Elton John and other celebrities.

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