Nepal gays start hungerstrike against bias

The protest is against Home Minister Bhim Rawal who, according to the sexual minorities, has refused to authorise the issuance of identity cards to transgenders though the Supreme Court ordered the government to do so three years ago.

"We have run out of patience," said Pant, who is also the founder of the gay rights movement in Nepal and celebrated a decade of the stir Saturday.

"We are ashamed to have a government whose minister denies citizens a legal ID, which is a fundamental right. You can't survive in Nepal without a legal ID. Third genders can't enrol in college, get jobs or inherit ancestral property. They can't open a bank account or travel. Even being treated in hospital is a problem," Pant said.

In December 2007, Nepal's Supreme Court recognised the community as "natural people" entitled to all the rights heterosexual citizens enjoy. The court also gave the nod to same-sex marriages and ordered the government to draft laws to protect the rights of the community.

Following the landmark judgment, three districts of Banke, Palpa and Kaski issued IDs to five third genders -- people who consider themselves to be of a sex different from the one they were born with.

They have been asking to be recognised as third genders in their state IDs instead of male or female.

However, Pant says the present home minister stopped the issuance of such IDs.
"We had approached the president (Ram Baran Yadav) and the prime minister (Madhav Kumar Nepal)," the MP told IANS. "Both sent letters to the home ministry asking it to speed up matters. But the home minister is still refusing to authorise the IDs."

The current home minister is a controversial politician who had a feud with his deputy, Minister of State Rizvan Ansari, who blamed him for the deteriorating law and order situation in the country.

The feud ended with the prime minister forcing Ansari to resign though Ansari was the only elected MP in the cabinet from the premier's party.

Rawal is now at the centre of a fresh controversy after the caretaker PM drew flak for his earlier decision to lead a jumbo delegation to the UN General Assembly and delegated the home minister to go in his stead.

"It's really a sad case that a minister who denies the rights of the most marginalised people in the country and refuses to implement the decision of the Supreme Court will represent Nepal at the UN meet," Pant said.

 

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