Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nepal Government Begins Crackdown on Gays

As reported by the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) on Thursday September 14, 2006

Kathmandu -- Nepal's vulnerable gay community, who had taken part in the popular protests against King Gyanendra's regime, are now being targeted by the new 'democratic' government they supported to power, a gay rights organisation said.

(In Nepal's conservative society, where the son is valued much more than the daughter, homosexuals are regarded as freaks and homosexuality is a punishable offence. )

The gay community has been urging the new government to end homophobic laws and incorporate gay rights in the new constitution that is to be implemented soon.

The new government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, that was sworn in May and pledged to uphold democracy and human rights, has now started a cleansing drive against homosexuals in the capital, arbitrarily arresting them, detaining them illegally and beating them up in police lock-ups, according to the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal's most prominent gay rights organisation.

Sunil Pant, president of Blue Diamond Society, says the new drive against metis -- homosexual men who dress up as women -- began about a month ago.

Metis are being prevented from moving around in the capital, especially in the Thamel area, that is the capital's tourist hub and a prime destination for male prostitutes.

Last month, three metis were arrested from the Thamel area because they were carrying condoms. This month, five more were arrested from a dance bar in another area of the capital.
'Most of the new arrests are of metis from the terai plains bordering India, who are the most marginalised and vulnerable,' says Pant. 'They have low literacy levels, no money and almost no professional skills.'

The five men approached the owner of the Blue Bar Dance Restaurant in Chhabahil Chowk for jobs as dancers. Pant says while the owner refused to pay them any wage, he told them they could work there if they were satisfied with the tips paid by customers.

However, their performance was broken up by police who asked the owner to close the restaurant and warned him not to allow metis to work here in future.

'They can't move around, they are not allowed to earn a living in the only way they can. Then what are they to do?' Pant asks.

Even as the Koirala government is urging the Maoist guerrillas to disclose the whereabouts of people abducted by them, Pant says police arrest metis arbitrarily, force them into signing confessions that they were having sex in public place, and hold them incommunicado for long periods.