After Mumbai dabbawallahs, Nepal's hijras bless British royal wedding

After Mumbai dabbawallahs, Nepal's hijras bless British royal wedding

Nepal's hijras - eunuchs who from being one of the most repressed groups in the severely patriarchal community became empowered after a gay rights movement started from 2001 - are offering their blessings to Prince William and Kate Middleton. Prince Charles' son and heir apparent William ties the knot to Kate Middleton in a wedding extravaganza in London nine days later.

"Nepal has this unique tradition of inviting the eunuch community members to weddings and births as people consider their presence auspicious and seek their blessings," said Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal's only openly gay member of parliament and a gay rights icon in South Asia.

The NGO that the computer engineer founded in 2001 - the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) --   pioneered the gay rights movement in Nepal, which became the first South Asian country to get the court nod for same-sex marriages.

"In the pilgrim town of Janakpur in southern Nepal, the famous Janaki temple has a room for hijras to use during such celebrations," Pant added. According to him, elderly hijras remember with nostalgia the spectacular marriage of Nepal's crown prince Birendra in 1970 when they were invited to bless the newly-weds.

Now the hijras, together with gays, lesbians and transgenders, have offered their blessings to William and Kate.

"We wish we could be there and bless them in person," BDS said in a press statement. "But they don't know us and they may also not know about the existence of transgenders in Nepal and the tradition of them blessing newly-wed couples and new-born babies."

The hijra culture flourished during the Mughal rule with eunuchs holding positions of power in the court - and harems. Ironically, the community fell into disrepute and became stigmatised after the British began colonising Asia and other parts of the world, bringing homophobia and enforcing anti-sodomy law. "That made homosexuals and third genders to be regarded as unnatural beings and criminals," Pant said.

However, Nepal's sexual minorities are ready to let bygones be bygones. "We know today's Britain supports gay rights and we believe Prince William supports gay rights like his mother Princes Diana did," the statement added.

"Many gay people around the world still remember her and love her."  Wishing the royal couple a "long-lasting relationship, full of love, fulfilling long lives and healthy children", BDS is also inviting them to spend part of their honeymoon in Nepal.

The gesture came as the British embassy in Kathmandu began maintaining a book of congratulations from Tuesday for well-wishers. Nepal's Foreign Secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai was among the first to write in that.