Asia / Faith and religion

LGBT rights, Hindu style — the example of Nepal


A remarkable story by Vishal Arora in Asia Times tells about the arrival of LGBT rights in Nepal:

It started with a December 2007 judgment by the Supreme Court directing the government to introduce laws providing equal rights to the LGBTI community and amend all discriminatory laws against them.

Sunil Babu Pant (Photo courtesy of

Sunil Babu Pant (Photo courtesy of

After the court’s decision, most human-rights groups and political parties openly spoke in favor of sexual minorities, and religious groups, often the loudest opponents of gay rights elsewhere, promptly accepted it, the country’s openly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant said [in an interview,] sipping tea at a garden restaurant.

That’s in sharp contrast to what occurred in India, where a court ruling has suspended enforcement of the law against homosexuality there:

When a Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality three years ago, fury at the ruling was such that Hindu and Muslim groups typically at each throat’s united in opposition.

Part of the reason for the difference is the theology of Hindus in Nepal:

In Nepal, he said, most Hindu leaders know that “Hindu deities are so diverse and have been gays, lesbians and transgender themselves.”… Many Hindus believe that a marriage lasts for seven lives and although there is no guarantee whether a spouse will be born male or female in the next birth, the relationship continues.

There are many transgender gods especially in tantric Hinduism, Pant said.

Even Christians and Muslims in Nepal have an incentive to keep quiet about the changes that are taking place:

The minority Christian and Muslim communities in Nepal do not approve of homosexuality, Pant said, but they are struggling to establish their own rights and find it counterproductive to oppose gay marriage in a Hindu-majority society.

Recent developments include the Home Ministry decision in May to “provide citizenship to gays under the ‘others’ category to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.” In addition, a parliamentary committee preparing a same-sex marriage bill. The country’s three major parties all support LGBTI rights.

Lessons for other countries?

The gay community’s success in Nepal perhaps cannot be emulated elsewhere in the world because this South Asian nation has a unique religious and social context. But this young democracy’s experience at least teaches one lesson, especially to advocates and opponents of gay rights in the West. For, some religious groups in the West have gone to the extent of attacking the human dignity of LGBTI people. Likewise, some gay advocates aggressively reject basic religious tenets as well as faith-based foundations of nations.

Nepal shows that such radical reactions are not intrinsic to the conflict. Finding a solution, no matter how long it might take, through dialogue and without hatred is perhaps a better option than seeking to destroy each other, which is a lose-lose proposition.

For more information, read the full article in Asia Times.


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