A Celebration of Courage: Nepal's Blue Diamond Society Receives International Recognition for LGBT Human Rights Work

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Hossein Alizadeh 212-430-6016 halizadeh@iglhrc.org

(New York, NY, January 17, 2007) - The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) proudly announced today the selection of the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) as the recipient of its internationally recognized Felipa de Souza Award. BDS is a community-based organization working for sexual minorities in Nepal. The 2007 Felipa Award will be presented to Sunil Pant, the Founder and Director of BDS, at two awards ceremonies to be held on May 1, 2007 in New York and on May 3, 2007 in San Francisco.

Since 1994, the Felipa Award has acknowledged the courage and impact of grassroots groups and leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other individuals stigmatized and abused because of their sexuality or HIV status.

“Blue Diamond Society is one of the most effective human rights groups in the world. What Sunil and other members have been able to do in such a short time to build visibility and effective action around LGBT issues in Nepal and international renown among their global peers is nothing short of astounding,” said Paula Ettelbrick, the Executive Director of IGLHRC. “It is truly our honor to continue to work with them and to honor all they have done to promote human rights for everyone, everywhere - not just in Nepal.”

The Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal's only organization for sexual minorities, was founded in 2001 in an effort to address the needs of sexual minorities. In June 2004, in response to increasing incidents of police brutality against LGBT people, BDS organized the first public demonstration to support human rights for sexual minorities. Two months later, in another incident, Nepalese police arrested and jailed 39 LGBT activists. Immediately afterward, BDS spearheaded a national and international campaign to secure the release of the detainees.

BDS’ mission is to create an acceptance of sexual minorities in the society, reduce stigma and discrimination of sexual minorities, reduce high-risk sexual behaviors and increase Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) service utilization among sexual minorities for prevention of STI/HIV infection in Nepal, and to provide care and support for those sexual minorities who are HIV positive.

In the past few years, BDS has played an active role in Nepal’s politics by supporting the pro-democracy movement in the country. Since the gay community was systematically targeted and oppressed under the absolute reign of King Gyanendra, BDS joined other Nepalese people in opposing his regime. Following the King’s agreement to hand over power to the Nepalese people in April 2006, BDS has been working with the new government to include sexual minorities’ basic human rights and protections in the new constitution. In January 2007, Blue Diamond Society organized a forum on “Nepal’s New Constitution and the Rights of Minorities” where Lena Sundh, Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Justice Edwin Cameron, Supreme Court of Appeal, South Africa shared their thoughts and experiences with Nepalese legal and political experts.

“[Receiving] this [award] is such a great honor for Blue Diamond Society, all the Nepalese LGBTs and our families and friends who have been supporting of us,” said Sunil Pant, director of the Blue Diamond Society in Kathmandu, Nepal. “This award means increased visibility of the Nepalese LGBT community and empowering us in a crucial moment for the country as well as for the LGBT community itself.”

Nominations for the Felipa Award are solicited each year from activists around the world. Nominees go through a rigorous review by the staff, board and the International Advisory Committee of IGLHRC. The Award embodies the spirit and story of Felipa de Souza, who endured persecution and brutality after proudly declaring her intimacy with a woman during a 16th Century inquisition trial in Brazil.

The Felipa Award carries with it a $5,000 (USD) stipend to assist and strengthen the ability of grassroots human rights groups to do their work. The awardees will also have the opportunity to meet with U.S.-based LGBT activists and supporters during special award ceremonies and public education events in New York and San Francisco.

Previous Felipa Award winners include: Rauda Morcos, founder of ASWAT (Voices) the first group for Palestinian lesbians, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), the first organization to push for the human rights of LGBT people in Zimbabwean society and to provide counseling services and HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns; Simon Tseko Nikoli, the famed LGBT/HIV activist from South Africa; Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, whose leader Brian Williamson was murdered in 2004; Lohana Berkins, a globally known transgender activist from Argentina; and Maher Sabry, the Egyptian activist who notified IGLHRC of the arrests of the Cairo 52, a group of 52 men who were arrested by the Egyptian police at a Cairo gay nightclub in 2001.

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The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in San Francisco and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information.