Nepal’s gay MP crusades for India’s sexual minorities

November 8th, 2008 - 3:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghKathmandu, Nov 8 (IANS) Nepal’s first out-of-the-closet gay lawmaker, who founded the sexual minority rights movement in the conservative Himalayan nation, has now taken up cudgels on behalf of Indian peers, following reports of a crackdown on sexual minorities in India’s Bangalore city.Sunil Babu Pant, who became the first openly gay member of Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly this year and whose gay rights organisation Blue Diamond Society has the support of British rock icon Elton John, has urged Karnataka authorities to protect its sexual minorities.

He has asked Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, Indian ministers, police officials as well as the Karnataka Human Rights Commission to protect the eunuch community of Bangalore from “intense and targeted harassment” by police.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), have also been sent copies of the Nepal MP’s letter of protest that draws unflattering parallels between India and its tiny neighbour Nepal.

“Nepal used to face such violence from security forces against sexual and gender minorities,” wrote Pant, whose Blue Diamond Society began its work in Nepal five years ago fighting legal cases for gays and transgenders beaten up by police and molested inside prison.

“But (now) democracy has prevailed in Nepal. Last year, the Supreme Court ordered the government of Nepal to recognise gays, lesbians, bisexuals and third genders as natural persons.”

Pant also said incidents of violence have now reduced dramatically in Nepal and the first Maoist government this year included in the budget - for the first time - a support programme for sexual and gender minorities.

“It is sad that in India, the largest democracy in the world, the most marginalised and oppressed ones face such violence from state party itself,” Pant wrote to the Indian authorities.

The protest came after five eunuchs were last month arrested and taken to Bangalore’s Girinagar police station. There, they were allegedly beaten up and later charged, allegedly falsely, with extortion.

Pant and his organisation were informed of the incident by Sangama, an Indian human rights organisation working with eunuchs and other sexual minorities on issues of their rights and health for the past 10 years.

The NGO says when it tried to approach the police, its members were abused, detained and accused of rioting and obstruction.

When the incident triggered a protest by human rights activists and lawyers from various groups, the protesters were also reportedly attacked by policemen and charged with various offences.

“We are shocked at the callous attitude of the Bangalore police force, in not only physically assaulting the arrested hijras (eunuchs), but also the Sangama crisis team members, and the representatives of various trade union and other human rights organisations,” Pant wrote.

According to sexual minorities rights organisations, assaults on eunuchs and sex workers in Bangalore have been on the increase in the last few months. Pant said they smacked of an “organised and systematic crackdown”.

“In the eyes of law, all citizens have equal rights, irrespective of their religion, language, gender identity, sexual preference or employment,” the Nepali MP has told the Indian authorities.

“Therefore the targeted attack by the police on any particular community, whatever be the reason, is against the law that your government is mandated to uphold. We hope that you will take urgent necessary measures to ensure justice to the victims and stop such incidents from happening again.”

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