First South Asian gay leaders’ summit to share strategies

June 23rd, 2009 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 23 (IANS) Nearly a dozen gay leaders and minority rights activists will be meeting in New York Friday for the first South Asian Queer Leaders’ Summit to discuss future strategies and strengthen the trans-national network of the sexual minorities.
To be followed by a Lesbian film show and a pride party, the summit, to be hosted by Asia Society and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, will also assess the state of the community in South Asia, especially after the strides taken by the gay rights movement in India and its northern neighbour Nepal.

Once a conservative country where sons were preferred to daughters, Nepal saw a sea change in the nation’s attitude towards the sexual minorities after its Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment, recognising gays as ‘natural’ people and ordering the government to make laws to uphold their rights, including the right to same-sex marriage.

Last year, when Nepal held a historic election to abolish its 239-year-old monarchy, gays contested the polls for the first time and the newly elected constituent assembly gave the nation its first openly gay lawmaker.

In India, policy advocates have edged forward in their battle against a section of the Indian Penal Code that they say is discriminatory towards homosexuals since it criminalises sodomy and makes homosexuality a punishable offence.

In the US, the South Asian community has taken part in the movement for same sex marriage and immigration reforms.

The participants at the summit will include Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s first openly gay MP and founder of Blue Diamond Society, the pioneer organisation for protecting gay rights in Nepal, Indian film director Parvez Sharma, whose documentary, “A jihad for love”, dealing with Islam and homosexuality, won five international awards, and Mallika Dutt, who co-founded Sakhi, an organisation for South Asian women in New York that addresses domestic violence.

It will also be attended by Pakistani-American Faisal Alam, who founded the Al-Fatiha Foundation for gay, lesbian and transgender Muslims in the US, Tamil Sri Lankan American theatre artiste D’Lo, Indian Mario D’Penha, a member of Nigah, a gay collective using film and the arts to conduct discussions on sexuality in India, and Pakistani poet and activist Naveed Alam, whose book of poetry, “A queen of no ordinary realms” won the Spokane Poetry prize.

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