Interview with Nepal’s first gay MP

Though backward in economy, Nepal is much ahead when it comes to the rights of the third gender. Nepal’s first MP Sunil Panth who has openly declared his gay status, and got them equal rights for the third gender is in Bangalore to support the cause.

“I am surprised at what is happening in Bangalore. Police are evicting transgenders from their houses. This kind of oppression used to happen in Nepal in 2001 to 2005 during the King’s rule. Now we are a democratic country and enjoy equal rights. Indian is the largest democracy and it is surprising that such a thing is happening here,” said 35-year old Sunil Panth.

Nepal has recognized the third gender as a separate gender. “In most countries transgender are known by their post-operative sex. In Nepal official documents like passport and national identification card have third gender mentioned. The Maoist party and the Nepali Congress have included the needs of the thrid gender in their manifestoes too,” he said.

Panth’s Blue Diamond, Society, a network of 20 organisations has one of the petitioners in the Nepalese Supreme Court, demanding equal rights for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex). The Supreme Court held that members of sexual minorities were “natural persons” deserving of protection from discrimination. It ordered the government to come up with legislation guaranteeing civil rights for homosexuals and to establish a committee to study legalizing same-sex marriages. The Court said that official documents such as national identification cards and passports had to offer a third option besides “male” and “female” for a person’s gender. More recently the Nepalese Government, in its budget announced special provisions for LGBTI people.  

 

While Nepal’s new constitution is being drafted, Panth is working to get recognition for the third gender. “Our preamble will have the mention of a third category. It will also say that there should be no discrimination on sexual orientation, just like the way there should be no discrimination on the basis of caste or creed. There will be a separate section for sexual minorities so that they get equal opportunities,” he said.

The government is also undertaking schemes to provide employment for LGBTI. “We are training members of third gender to run hair salons, bakeries, drive tuk-tuk, work as sherpas, tour guides and to also make their houses into guest homes,” he said.

Panth also feels that the politicians too could cash on the huge vote bank which LGBTI has. “I was nominated by the Communist Party of Nepal (United). I garnered the complete support of LGBTI and also of others and won the elections. The other parties too have realised the huge vote bank they can get from us,” he said.

Panth’s journey

Sunil Panth was brought in Nepal’s countryside in the Gorkha district. “I finished school and came to Katmandu. There was no discussion or debate and I thought everyone was like me. In school boys and girl did not mingle. I went to Belarus for higher studies. There during medical counseling I saw a board stating, “Beware of homosexuals,” he said.

After completing my degree in Computer Science I went to Japan for three months for voluntary work. During this time I met a group of gays and lesbians in the heart of Tokyo city. This is when I discovered my true self. I made friends and studies about the third gender in who were held in high respect not only in Greek history but also in Hinduism. Hindus also have third gender deities. It was a new birth for me,” he said.

On returning to Nepal, Panth started the Blue Diamond Society and worked for the rights of LGBTI. “During the popular movement for democracy we too came on the streets. This is when many people noticed us a strong force,” he said.

Panth’s calls his mother his inspiration. “In 2003 a reporter asked if about my sexual orientation and I agreed that I was gay. My sister showed the article to my mother and she was devastated for a week. She then accepted me and stood by me. I stay with my parents,” he said.

He has himself not faced any discrimination. “May be it was because of me belonging to the so-called high caste. But I have personally not faced any threats or discrimination any where,” he said.

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