Nepalese National Human Rights Work Plan for 2011-14 Includes LGBTI Rights

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, third-gender and intersex (LGBTI) activists in Nepal have reached another milestone in their path-making work to include and protect LGBTI people in this Himalayan nation.

Nepal is, yet again, setting a leading pace for their neighbors across Asia in respect for the human rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

A three-year human rights work plan has been published for 2011-2014, with the formal endorsement of the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministerial Council of the national government of Nepal.

This is an important next step in the process required by the Supreme Court of Nepal’s December 2007 decision calling for an end to legalized discrimination against the country’s sexual and gender minorities, including in marriage.

In response to a need identified by Nepali community leaders, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Lambda Legal have partnered to provide legal expertise to the Nepali government officials, attorneys and human rights advocates charged to conduct studies and do other groundwork for legislative action, and then to frame appropriate legislation to open marriage to couples regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

As a first step in this partnership, Jennifer Pizer, Lambda Legal’s Senior Counsel and National Marriage Project Director, spent two and a half weeks in Nepal at the close of 2009, where she consulted with the members of the committee established by the high court’s order to oversee this work.

Her visit helped to accelerate the committee’s initial work and to identify areas for further research and next steps.

She later provided materials about methodologies for documenting the conditions facing LGBTI people, and showing how other countries are acting to reduce anti-LGBTI discrimination and violence, and continues to serve as a resource for the government officials and community advocates carrying this work forward.

Now, under the direction of the local development ministry of Nepal, this new human rights program aims systematically to increase acceptance of LGBTI people by, among other things, conducting seminars in ten districts around the country both to offer and to gather information about LGBTI people in Nepal’s exceptionally diverse, often very traditional, and yet steadily evolving communities.

This official government educational program, together with the data collected through these public events, will help build the foundation for successful legislative action in Parliament, which will be needed to satisfy the reform mandate issued by the Supreme Court of Nepal.