With four candidates, sexual minorities jittery

WEENA PUN
KATHMANDU, NOV 12

Forty-seven-year-old Gita Saithawar, a third-gender contesting the upcoming election in Nawalparasi-6, is hopeful that she will see victory in the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. However, Saithawar, who has been picked a candidate by the recently-formed Nepal Yuwa Kisan Party, quickly undercuts her optimism by deploring an acute funds crunch she faces.

After putting in all she had from her personal account, Saithawar says her election campaign has run awry for lack of money. With no financial support from her party or from the third gender community, she faces a daunting task ahead. Moreover, Saithawar has a formidable candidate to defeat—Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party’s Hridayesh Tripathi, who won the 2008 election in the same constituency.

Saithawar is the only candidate from the third-gender community to contest the polls under the direct election system. Three others— Yam Bahadur Rana (Anik), Rashtriya Janamukti Party; Rajjab Ali Halwai, Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Gajendrabadi); and Binita Kumari Singh (Bibek), Nepal Rashtrasewa Dal— are candidates under the proportional representation (PR) system. Except for the Rashtriya anamukti Party, none of the other three parties contested the 2008 election.

The only third-gender member in the last Constituent Assembly (CA), Sunil Babu Pant, is not on the list of FPTP and PR candidates submitted by the party he belongs to—CPNUML. Not just the UML, none of the three other major parties—UCPN (Maoist); Nepali Congress and Madheshi Janadhikar Forum, Nepal—have third gender people in their list of candidates. Although hopeful and thankful that at least smaller parties are giving recognition to its identity, the third-gender community is sceptical that one of the four candidates will be elected to the next CA.

“We have been betrayed,” says Bhumika Shrestha, a staff at Blue Diamond Society, an organisation which works for the rights of the third-gender population.

Shrestha, also a Mahasamiti member of the Nepali Congress, was confident that she would be on the list of PR candidates from the Congress. “But at the last minute, the party showed technical difficulties and removed my name,” Shrestha said. The technical glitch shown was the discrepancy in the name on her citizenship card and in the name she goes by.

“Kailash or Bhumika, the name should not have been a problem. Just like Pant, I was sidelined,” says Shrestha. “Now, if none of us gets to the CA this time, we are afraid our rights will be infringed upon.”

Because of the manner both Bhumika and Pant were treated by their parties, third-gender candidates under the PR system fear they too will meet a similar fate. “If influential people like Bhumika and Pant can be bumped, so can I,” says Rana. “But if the CA is reallyabout inclusion, one of us will get there.”

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