In Nepal and India, parallel movements for dignity for LGBT communities

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09/06/2019

I came of age in late 1990s Kathmandu, during a period when Nepal’s capital city was smaller and more insular. There was little room for marginalized groups in the sociopolitical sphere. But the advent of the internet gradually expanded my world. Innate curiosity, a reading habit and love for movies helped me accept my sexuality even before completing high school. At night, I would log onto Gay.com’s virtual chatrooms, organized country-wise. There was no Nepal room, so I would enter the India one, because it was closest to home. My departure in 2000 to a college in the United States coincided with the heightening of the People’s War in Nepal, a movement that highlighted demands for equality and social justice. However, I had made up my mind that I did not have a future in Nepal, and was determined to settle abroad. News from my homeland trickled in: war casualties, the end of the monarchy and the People’s Movement. I also read about the establishment of the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal’s first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) organization. Under the leadership of founding member Sunil Babu Pant, homosexuality was legalized in Nepal following a Supreme Court judgment in 2007. The trajectory of decriminalization of homosexuality in India was a bit more circuitous. I knew about the colonial-era Section 377 of the India Penal Code that criminalized sex ‘against the order of nature’. But when the Hindi movie Dostana was released in 2008, I was pleased that it broached the subject of homosexuality, though caricaturizing it. For people who belong to marginalized groups invisibilized by the mainstream culture — and Bollywood is very good at doing that — a mere recognition of our existence is validating. Soon after, in the summer of 2009, the section was read down to not apply to consenting adults, by the Delhi High Court.

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