‘Gudiya’ strikes blow for gay rights in Nepal polls

March 20th, 2008 - 12:28 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 20 (IANS) With the crucial election in Nepal three weeks away, eunuch Rajjab Ali’s day starts early. With practiced expertise, he drapes himself in a maroon sari with a silver border, puts on matching white stone earrings and a nosepin and after a quick lining of his eyes with kohl, a touch of lipstick and a maroon bindi, he is ready to get cracking.

Unlike the past months, when work meant dancing at weddings and births in the border towns of Nepal and India, the 33-year-old is now readying for a date with history. He will be the first eunuch to contest an election in Nepal, being part of a drive by Nepal’s sexual minorities to stake a claim in the historic polls that will write a pro-people’s constitution.

When he sways to hit songs from Hindi films, Ali’s sensuousness can put any top Bollywood siren to shame. He also has a talent for spinning out couplets, qualities that are being put to use by the gay community for their poll campaign.

Ali, better known as “Gudiya” or the Dancing Doll in south Nepal’s Terai belt, has a formidable rival.

He is fighting Sushil Koirala in Nepalgunj town in Banke district. Koirala, one of the top leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress party, is also a relative of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

“If I win, I’ll continue dancing at parties,” the confident Gudia says.

“If we lose, we will continue our struggle for sexual minorities’ rights from the streets,” adds Sunil Babu Pant, the leader of the gay rights movement in Nepal and founder of Blue Diamond Society (BDS), the first gay right organisation in the conservative Himalayan nation.

Pant, 34, the recipient of several international awards, is himself in the poll fray.

Making history, 11 gays and lesbians and Ali are fighting an election in Nepal for the first time.

Six of them have been fielded by a fringe communist party, the Communist Party of Nepal (United), whose lone lawmaker, Ganesh Shah, is the only legislator to have raised gay issues in parliament and taken part in their street rallies.

A seventh - Dil Kumari Budhuja, a lesbian - has left the closet to fight from remote Myagdi district on a ticket by the little-known Nepal Development Party.

The remaining five are independent candidates, who are being supported by BDS, which includes a financial aid of NRS.10,000 per head for poll expenses.

Except for Pant and Budhuja, who are in the proportional representation fray that will decide 335 seats, the remaining 10 have been pitted in direct fights with powerful rivals, including Maoist leaders.

The election will choose a 601-member constituent assembly in which 240 seats would be decided on the basis of a direct fight and 26 will be nominated.

However, with none of the seven ruling parties having nominated a third gender contestant, it is unlikely any member from the sexual minorities will be nominated to the assembly.

Still, the little band of warriors is undeterred.

“For the first time in Nepal’s history, two of the most powerful parties - Koirala’s Nepali Congress and the Maoists - have promised to address gay issues in their election manifestos,” says Pant.

“That’s a beginning.”

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