KATHMANDU, Dec 27: “Here is something important for us parliamentarians,” stressed Sunil Babu Panta, while explaining the Supreme Court ruling that ensured equal rights to sexual minorities. “The apex court has already given a ruling
[to the government] to formulate appropriate laws and also bring about amendment to the existing laws so as to ensure the separate identity and rights of people with a different sexual orientation.”
The only gay rights activist turned member of the Constituent Assembly (CA) was addressing lawmakers representing various political parties, senior government officials and human rights activists at a function organized on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the apex court ruling of December 21, 2007.
The CPN (United) had nominated Panta, 35, as a CA member in April.
“Things have changed a lot in the last one year,” added Panta, who also founded the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) in 2001 to crusade for the rights of sexual and gender minorities. “But we still have a long way to go.”
The function was aimed at sensitizing stakeholders over the rights of people belonging to sexual and gender minorities. A short play was also staged on the occasion.
A division bench comprising judges Balaram KC and Pawan Kumar Ojha had delivered the verdict, asking the government to give legal recognition to people of the third sex when providing them citizenship certificates or state benefits. The verdict came in response to public interest litigation filed by Panta and four of his colleagues.
There are still no specific laws to protect the rights of sexual minorities but the Supreme Court´s decision has opened the door to enjoyment of equal rights and opportunities and protection from the state to people belonging to sexual and gender minorities.
However, Panta has reason to be happy.
At least two persons—Chanda Musalman and Bishnu Adhikari – have acquired citizenship certificates with their third gender identity over the past year. The government for the first time, in its Poverty Alleviation and Inclusiveness Program, allocated some money in the name of sexual and gender minorities. Added to this, the state-owned Department of Cottage and Small Scale Industries has begun providing skill-oriented training in bakery, sewing and the like to third gender people starting this year.
Pinky Gurung, another gay rights activist with BDS, says they are now spared ill-treatment by the police. “We now have before us the challenge of not only bringing about amendment to existing laws, but also changing attitudes in our society,” argues Gurung, whose first name was originally Sanjeev.