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In every region of the world, LGBTIQ+ people are routinely denied their rights to freedom, safety, and equality. They may face pervasive discrimination, experience intolerable acts of violence that go unpunished, and lack access to justice. These experiences cannot be separated from struggles they may also face on account of other intersecting identities. Throughout this year’s moments of collective crisis, celebration, and all that is in between, LGBTIQ+ activists have continued to fight against inequalities, anchored in and strengthened by the work of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour, to push for a safer, more equal world.
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Advances in LGBTIQ rights in Nepal began with a 2007 Supreme Court ruling to legally recognize a third gender category; audit all laws to identify those that discriminated against LGBT people; and open the door to consider same-sex marriage. In 2003, another Supreme Court decision said a person cannot be prohibited from cohabitating with someone of the same gender. But an analysis Prevention Collaborative did in July 2020 with support from UN Women Nepal said that, “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.”
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UN Women is supporting dialogue between the Government and LGBTIQ groups to ensure that Nepal’s LGBTIQ people are properly counted in the 2021 population census. The last census, in 2011, tallied only 1,500 people 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 people afraid to come out.
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“I was born in a traditional Newar household in Patan, Kathmandu Valley, and my childhood was highly influenced by my family’s cultural background. I lived in a big family with my grandparents and they did not speak Nepali. So, I grew up speaking Nepal Bhasa, my mother tongue. However, at school I would get shut out of my native language as I was only exposed to Nepali and English, the only two languages used in most educational institutions in Nepal.
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The radio and community outreach campaigns in Nepal – ‘Samajhdari’ and the ‘Most Understanding Husband’ – have spread awareness on the issue of violence against women and HIV prevention, and have encouraged women in Nepal to free themselves from the cycle of violence and abuse.