Rights and representation of LGBTIQ Community: Paving the path to an inclusive, non-binary Nepal

Date: Thursday, December 31, 2020

Author: Anam Abbas

Photo Courtesy of Dia Maijadh Yonzon

Five years ago, the rights of the LGBTIQ community were recognized in the Constitution of Nepal in article 12 for equality and social justice and in article 18 the right to citizenship. This significant milestone led Nepal to become the 10th country in the world to specifically protect the rights of the LGBTIQ community. Since then, the LGBTIQ rights movement has gained significant momentum from activists who led groups to organize, mobilize, and further advocate for legal reform and social acceptance.

Five years since this momentous occasion, despite legal provisions, the struggles for obtaining citizenship, legal protection, marriage equality, and fighting stigma against gender and sexual minorities still shape the lived experiences of this community. Furthermore, discriminatory social norms also impede the realization of equal rights of the LGBTIQ community in Nepal.

This is all according to a contextual rapid analysis, conducted by Prevention Collaborative, with support from UN Women Nepal “Translating the Supreme Court rulings into a legal framework that guarantees inclusion and protections is slow-paced and hindered mainly by bureaucracy and dominant patriarchal institutional and social culture.” 

With the spread of COVID-19, the LGTBTIQ community has become even more vulnerable. Experiences from past emergencies as well as the emerging evidence of COVID-19 on socio-economic impacts show that those more vulnerable become more so during a crisis, given the fallout of an intersectional approach to preparedness, response, and recovery mechanisms.

“Every crisis makes the LGBTIQ community vulnerable because of the lack of policy and response mechanisms that address inclusion and intersectionality. The community faced the challenges in accessing the health services including psychosocial support and relief support and LGBTIQ friendly quarantine centers.” said Sarita KC from Mitini Nepal. She shared how COVID-19 had impacted the LGBTIQ community during a webinar on LGBTIQ activism in Nepal.

The webinar titled “LGBTIQ activism in the Asia-Pacific Region: The impact of COVID-19 and the role of international actors” was organized by UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and UN Women Nepal in collaboration with the Prevention Collaborative to engage with LGBTIQ people on the impacts of the pandemic on the community in Asia and the Pacific.

Amidst the crisis, UN Women Nepal’s interventions have focused on the inclusion of marginalized communities in its response efforts.

Focusing on bridging the information gap between stakeholders, UN Women chairs a Gender in Humanitarian Action Task Team (GIHA TT) meeting to facilitate dialogue and advocacy between diverse groups, among which LGBTIQ group has been a pertinent focus.

Gitanjali Singh, Deputy Representative of UN Women Nepal, shares “We are committed to ensuring GIHA TT remains a constructive dialogue platform enabling the sharing of diversity of voices, experiences and solutions advancing gender equality and social inclusion.”

With this intersectional approach, UN Women has fostered the representation of the community in all its interventions and advocacy efforts to embody ‘walk the talk’.

The need for representation and inclusion of the LGBTIQ community has also been a focus of UN Women Nepal in its interventions in the past. The last census, in 2011, tallied only 1,500 persons identifying as LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, and queer/questioning). That was because the census lacked specific questions or a method to collect this data, and the nature of the census made many persons afraid to come out. To address this concern in the upcoming population census in 2021, UN Women supported a dialogue in 2019 between the Government and LGBTIQ groups to ensure that Nepal’s LGBTIQ persons are properly counted in the upcoming census.

Although this was a building block, the lack of data or accessing information from the lived experiences of the LGBTIQ community hinders putting effective, inclusive, and evidence-based public policy advocacy in place. To fill this existing gap in evidence, UN Women is looking to conduct research on the prevalence, forms and causes of violence against and within LGBTIQ groups. This research will inform the programming efforts of UN Women Nepal as well as development partners in using an intersectional approach for ending gender-based violence in Nepal.