Sexual minorities await with bated breath the report on same sex marriage

WEENA PUN
KATHMANDU, JAN 22

Sexual minorities wait anxiously for the long-delayed report of an expert committee formed to advise the government on legalising samesex marriage in Nepal. With no representative from the third-gender community in the new Constituent Assembly (CA), the community fears that the government and the CA might backtrack on past achievements.

The Supreme Court had ordered the government to form such a committee in late 2008 when it ruled that the third-gender community must be able to enjoy their rights. The expert panel was consequently formed to study international laws on same-sex marriage andinform the Cabinet.

According to Chaitanya Mishra, a sociologist who was a member of the committee, the work on the report has been completed, except for a two-page summary to be drafted by the chairman of the committee. Laxmi Raj Pathak, undersecretary at the Ministry of Health and Population, is the chairman of the committee.

While Mishra blames the under-secretary for failing to submit the report to the Cabinet, Pathak finds the government uninterested in the report. “If the government wants the report, the two-page summary is not a big deal. The problem is that every single cabinet formed since Madhav Kumar Nepal as the prime minister has been telling us not to bother with the issue,” says Pathak.

This lack of interest from the government is precisely what frightens the gender minorities. Although Pathak promises to submit the report to the Cabinet within a month, he refuses to release it for public debate,saying that comprehensive debate has already taken place prior to the drafting of the report. The LGBTI community, however, differs.

“We don’t care where the report goes, either to the Cabinet or to the new CA,but we want to know what is in the report before it becomes a law,” says Usha Titikshu, a photo journalist and a rights activist.

Bhumika Shrestha of Blue Diamond Society, an organisation which advocates for the rights of sexual minorities, finds no alternative better than waiting for the report to be submitted to the Cabinet. “Of course, if the government remains hesitant, we will have to move the Supreme Court again,” says Shrestha. “We are already scared that the new CA will not take ownership of the achievements made by the last CA.”

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