Kathmandu: Sunita Lama, adorned in a colorful sari and blouse and her signature smile, was busy receiving compliments for looking ‘awesome’. “It’s not from those who actually despise you. The compliments are genuine,” she beamed as she was attending the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia organized by Mitini Nepal in Kathmandu on Wednesday. “Such events fill us with a great strength to face challenges surrounding us and live with positivity and dignity,” she added.
There were days when Lama, a transwoman in her late 40s now, used to question her worth and share of hardships. Things looked dark as the society and family would not be happy to know about her different sexuality. They knew her as a family man who had two kids.
“Due to social stigma and lack of awareness, we tend to hide our identity in the beginning. Within this confusion, many of us happen to get married with the wrong personality. But when the conflict within ourselves starts taking a serious toll on our mental health, we try to fix it,” she said. “Thanks to organizations like Mitini Nepal that serves a great deal to handle our transition and make things far easier for us and our family.”
Lama and the likes shared a series of anecdotes about how society makes their life an uphill journey by ignoring their reality and existence. Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia is rampant not just in south Asia but in almost all corners of the world, according to Mitini Nepal.
Terming it as a natural phenomenon, the World Health Organization had removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases in 1990. Around 10 percent of people, in any given human population, tends to have a different sexuality, as per WHO.
Mitini Nepal, which has been working for equal rights and dignified life of sexual and gender minorities for nearly two decades, reports of ‘snail-paced changes’ and acceptance regarding the community. “More the society is ready to accept you primarily as a human and cease to be intolerant of you based on your gender and sexual identity, the happier and more peaceful the society turns out to be. But, in this long journey, we’ve realized that minorities are always the least heard of. Our community, globally, continues to strive for equal space and dignity,” Laxmi Ghalan, a transman and founding president of Mitini Nepal asserted.
Mitini Nepal, Inclusive Forum Nepal (IFN) and Blue Diamond Society, among other organizations of gender and sexual minorities, have been demanding legalization of the same-sex marriage in Nepal. Without legal papers in hand to approve their conjugal life, same-sex couples are not able to pass down their property rights to their partners and facilitate the lives of their own or adopted children, among other hurdles they face after tying the knot.
Meanwhile, Minister for Women, Children, and Senior Citizen Surendra Raj Acharya stated that the government is serious about securing a dignified life and human rights for each and every citizen of the country. “Our constitution secures everyone’s equal rights, equal space. Everyone, including the members of the gender and sexual minorities, shall get a free and fearless environment to exploit their potentialities and thrive in their life,” said Acharya.
The community members, who hailed from different districts, stole the show with captivating dance and musical performances. Amidst the presence of representatives from different ministries, embassies, UN agencies, and human rights organizations, a same-sex couple was also honored.
A compilation of compelling life stories of the community members Together always: United in Diversity, and a factsheet on ‘Age discrimination impacts on older LGBTI persons in Nepal’, both published by Mitini Nepal, were also launched during the program.
Ghalan also shed light on how the Covid-19 pandemic and the recession that followed affected this marginalized community disproportionately.