Nepal’s much praised acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans citizens looks set to face a huge challenge in the coming weeks as a newly proposed criminal code is reported to contain provisions barring same-sex couples from marriage and, even more troubling, to once again criminalize “unnatural sexual offences.”
In November 2008, Nepal’s Supreme Court affirmed the rights of Nepal’s gay community to be treated equally and instructed the government to amend laws to meet that standard. The landmark judgment also required the government to make provisions recognizing same-sex unions when the country’s new constitution was written.
However, reports suggest the government is now looking to defy that ruling.
“The law and justice ministry, in consultation with judges, has completed the drafts of a new criminal code and a civil code of law, which were submitted in parliament recently after being approved by the council of ministers.
If the 601-seat parliament endorses them, Nepal will get new legal codes, a move which however has brought no joy to its burgeoning gay community.
The marriage clauses in the new codes define the union as only that between a man and a woman, treating homosexual unions as “unnatural sex offences”.
“The proposed civil and criminal laws contain provisions to re-criminalise so-called ‘unnatural sexual offenses’,” [Manisha Dhakal, a transgender senior member of the Blue Diamond Society, told a UN Rights Forum.]
“The proposed civil and criminal laws by the Ministry of Law, which have been tabled in the Nepali parliament, contain provisions to re-criminalize so-called ‘unnatural sexual offenses’ and to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. These attempts by the law ministry are a clear sign not to follow international human rights standards, a clear intention not to implement Supreme Court’s decision and also go against the spirit of the interim and new draft constitution of Nepal.”
Nepal’s gay community is now calling on the international community to make the Nepal government implement the Supreme court’s decisions fully and ensure that the proposed civil and criminal laws are amended to ensure the human rights and equality of sexual and gender minorities.
Nepal has heavily courted foreign LGBT communities since the 2008 ruling, advertising as a gay tourist destination with the jewel in the crown being Himalayan venues for same-sex unions.
Recriminalization of homosexuality in the country’s new constitution, a document that was supposed to uphold the rights of all citizens regardless of sexuality, will therefore not only be financially troubling for the nation’s citizens but will also raise serious ideological questions about the government’s interests and its commitment to human rights.