Sunil Pant Hub

Death Toll in Nepal Climbs Over 3,700 After Devastating Earthquake; Here's How You Can Help

Basantapur Durbar square, before and after the earthquake.

The official death toll from Saturday's massive earthquake in Nepal has risen to more than 3,700 with nearly 7,000 injured as of Monday morning. It is expected to rise sharply and could exceed 15,000.

Many of Nepal's historic sites have been completely destroyed. Makeshift tent cities have sprung up around the country filled with survivors afraid to return home because of aftershocks. The International Committee of the Red Cross has a page filled with hundreds of names of people still unaccounted for.

There was a bit of good news on Monday as Turkish rescue workers in Kathmandu pulled a man alive from the rubble:

Some of the Relief Organizations where you can contribute:

The Nepal Red Cross Society is at the center of relief efforts in the devastated country and help is needed.

Its online donation link is here but is experiencing issues with heavy traffic. It is down as of this posting. the American Red Cross is coordinating efforts with them and you can select Nepal Earthquake Relief on its donation page.

Also collecting funds is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (already they are Partnering with the IDF field hospital in Nepal to provide medical equipment, including two neonatal incubators; Working with UNICEF to secure supplies to meet children’s shelter, nutrition, water, and sanitation needs; Mobilizing a rapid assessment team of disaster experts who will arrive in Nepal this week; Collaborating with partners — among them, Tevel B’Tzedek, the All-India Disaster Mitigation Institute, and Sarvodaya — to distribute emergency relief) , the American Jewish World Service, and Americares, which has sent a response team.

Efforts are also underway from CARE. Their relief effort page is here.

Other relief organizations working to get aid to the people and organizations of Nepal are World Vision, The World Food Programme, UNICEF, Shelterbox, Nepal Children's Emergency Relief Fund from Save the Children, Real Medicine Foundation (online or text REALMED to 50555 to make a $10 donation), Plan International, Oxfam International, and Operation USA.

Over the weekend a terrifying video emerged of the avalanche that occurred at Mt. Everest (below). The US State Department reported three US citizens killed. 150 climbers remain stranded above the avalanche but helicopters have begun rescue efforts. At least 61 were injured and many remain missing.

Nepal's Blue Diamond Society is the largest LGBT rights organization in Nepal, founded in 2001. A couple of messages have been received from a leader and a former leader (and national MP) of that organization.

BdsAn update on the LGBTI situation in Nepal from Parsu Rai of Blue Diamond Society:

I am in the [Blue Diamond Society] office since the fatal took place and have talked to many staff and there has been continuous flow of information. Some information has been shared from the districts and we are yet to receive from other. If there is any information that needs to be shared then please do so. Please keep communicating. The recent update is as follows:

The buildings of BDS donated by international and national donors are cracked in many parts; walls are almost about the fall. The ground floors of both the building are damaged and have huge cracks that can tumble at any time.

There has been severe damage of houses in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavre, Sindulpalchowk and Gorkha, Tahanu, Kaski as well as in Siraaha and many community members might have lost their houses.

Due to fear, most of the community people are staying outside in the tent and have difficulties in accessing different facilities as there has been no support from outsiders. The daily wages earner has no means to sustain their livelihood. One of the community members have been out of contact since the fatal earthquake occur.

Some members have their houses damages (Gorka meti, Chari, Halasta from sakhu, Budi Meti from Sakhau Thimi in Sakhu), Kritipur, Kavrepalanchowk, Thimi Gorkha, Siraha, Lalitpur and janakpur and the information is yet to come as there is no means of communication and electricity is completely lost.

We will be updating as soon as we get into access to internet and other means of communication with electricity.

Parsu Ram Rai

PantA message from gay former Nepali MP Sunil Pant:

Blue Diamond Society's main building has a crack, as told by staff; they feel its not a major crack but will need repair. Blue Diamond Society's care home for HIV positive LGBTIs also has a crack and need good repair. One staff of Blue Diamond Society who works for care support centre, JYOTI PRAKASH, is missing so far.

Many TGs reported having problems of accessing toilets, has been a big problem as they spending nights in the open in Kathmandu. Three TGs from Gorkha said their houses are completely destroyed. As Gorkha and Lumjung are hardest hit districts, my ancestral home is damaged too. The current president, executive director and all other staff at BDS are ok. Phone lines and networks are non functional mostly so have not been able to reach out everyone. In Makwanpur districts also LGBTIs spending nights in the open. LGBTIs from Bhaktapur and Patan are also spending nights in the open, every TG expressed problems of accessing toilet... Food, blankets are not reaching like many others have not been reached in in Nepal. Like many women who are in need, lesbians who have to spend nights out, also finding difficulty to access toilets. I am outside of Nepal since a while, this update is through phone calls or emails with those LGBTIs in Nepal that I could get in touch. Will keep you update as I hear more. There is a need for help with relief and some rehabilitation to LGBTIs in Nepal.

Sunil babu Pant

Nepal To Consider Re-Criminalizing Homosexuality

AcharyaNepal Justice Minister Narahari Acharya [pictured right] is seeking to enact new anti-gay laws re-criminalizing homosexuality, reports the Nepal Times.

In 2007, Nepal decriminalized homosexuality and ruled in favor of protections for the equal rights of LGBTI people. However, the law ministry is currently preparing to push anti-gay laws that will punish gay sex with three years imprisonment.  The law would also prohibit same-sex unions.

Writing in Nepal Times, Sunil Bapu Pant [pictured below], the country’s first openly gay politician, highlights the difficulties faced by LGBTI people in Nepal:

When taxing citizens the government does not discriminate, but when assuring citizens of their rights, the government wants to know your gender. And if you are third gender, you cannot go to school, you cannot get a passport, you cannot get married, you cannot apply for job, you cannot join the police/army/bureaucracy, you cannot access a loan or development programs, you cannot open your business or register your property.

Addressing the proposed new anti-gay laws, Pant continues:

Pant“This new draft provision of civil and criminal codes prepared by the Law Ministry not only defines homosexuality, but also oral and anal sex among heterosexuals, as ‘unnatural’ acts. The definition of rape is narrowed only to women.

"Many third genders are forced into heterosexual marriage, ruining both lives. Codifying such forced and heterosexualised relationships to third genders serves only to create needless suffering to our families and relatives. The notion that third gender and same-sex relationships are unnatural is absurd and wrong, as proven by our historical and religious texts. The more we exclude and isolate LGBT people, the more we hurt everyone. Because if a person has no right to go to school, no right to get jobs, cannot contribute to the economy of the country, cannot contribute to the culture, they become burden to society.

"All Nepalis who believe in equality and tolerance must raise their voices. The right to justice of all marginalised peoples is under threat from a regressive state. They are going to be excluded, marginalized, discriminated against, criminalised and demonised."

70 Gay Rights Activists Arrested at Demonstration in Nepal

Kathmandu police detained 70 gay rights activists including openly gay MP Sunil Pant yesterday, during a demonstration in Nepal's capital over government identification for transgender people, ABC reports:

Pant "Nepali men and women who identify as transgender are seeking citizenship certificates with their gender marked as 'third sex' instead of male or female. Sunil Babu Pant, lawmaker and founder of the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights group, says more than 70 people were detained near the prime minister's office and parliament. 'We are running out of patience and are demanding our rights,' Pant said from a detention centre. "Without the citizenship papers, the sexual minorities are unable to get a job, enrol in schools or colleges, seek treatment in hospitals and travel," he said. 'They cannot even inherit parental property.' ... Kathmandu police chief Ramesh Kharel said the activists were detained for 'violating the norms' by gathering at a place where demonstrations were not allowed."

In related news, one initiative that Pant has also spearheaded to raise awareness about the plight of transgender people in the country is the Beauty and Brains Talent contest.

Watch a trailer for a documentary on it, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "70 Gay Rights Activists Arrested at Demonstration in Nepal" »

Nepal Holds 'International' Gay Pride Parade


Nepal's Gay Pride celebration went international this year, with participation from several foreign entities. A parade took place yesterday.

British The Times of India reports:

Dozens of young men and women, dressed in costumes, masks and animal ensembles, marched in a gay pride reminding one of the Mardi Gras celebrations in Brazil. Organised under the aegis of Blue Diamond Society, Nepal's pioneering gay rights organisation, the march, now in its ninth year, has grown from strength to strength since its inception when the participants hid their faces behind masks for fear of being identified.

"From this year, our march has become internationalised," said Sunil Babu Pant, BDS founder and Nepal's only openly gay MP who successfully lobbied Supreme Court to recognise same-sex marriages and is now hosting such events for foreigners in Nepal with his gay travel agency, Pink Mountains, promising elaborate honeymoon packages. "We have the support of the Irish parliament, the American ambassador to Nepal, Scott DeLisi, has sent a message of solidarity and the march saw the participation of the British ambassador, John Tucknott. Thousands of gays die worldwide every year, some of natural causes, some due to AIDS/HIV and many due to violence. In Nepal, there were 10 known deaths last year. But no one remembers them. Our gay parade ends with a candle-light vigil in memory of those who died last year. This is about equality for all."

Tucknott, who can be seen in the inset photo above marching with the British contingent, released a statement about his participation:

2_nepal "Nepal Pride is not just about LGBT people standing up for their rights. It’s about all of us - straight or gay - supporting them in their quest for equality,"British Ambassador John Tucknott said. "It is about saying no to intolerance, no to prejudice, no to discrimination, and no to violence. It is about saying yes to embracing diversity. I wish all the participants in Nepal Pride 2010 a safe and enjoyable day.”

The Canadian Press adds:

"Pant's gay rights group organized the parade to campaign for greater rights for sexual minorities in Nepal. 'Our message is ending all forms of discrimination,' Pant told reporters. He said the parade participants were from India, Japan, Britain, Germany, Denmark and Norway, and a police officer at the scene estimated the crowd was around 2,000. Smaller such parades have been held in Nepal in the past."

Nepal Holds First Wedding Ceremony for Foreign Gay Couple

Nepal this week held its first wedding ceremony for a foreign gay couple, though same-sex marriage is not legal in that country...yet:

Pant  "The ceremony was held Tuesday night in Kathmandu for Sanjay Shah, 42, a Briton from Leicester, and an Indian man who did not want to be identified, said Sunil Pant, a member of Nepal's parliament and the nation's most prominent gay activist. Pant's gay rights group, Blue Diamond Society, organized the ceremony and issued the pair a certificate for a $200 fee. The two men were not legally married because Nepal has no laws legalizing same-sex marriage and does not marry foreigners. However, marriages performed by priests are generally accepted by society and most people who live in rural areas do not register their marriages with authorities...

...Gay rights have improved dramatically in a country where just five years ago police were beating gays and transsexuals in the streets. Now, in addition to having an openly gay parliamentarian, Nepal is issuing 'third gender' identity cards and appears set to enshrine gay rights — and possibly even same-sex marriage — in a new constitution. The charter, however, has been delayed because of bickering among political parties that have been unable to choose a new leader since Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned in June. Tuesday's private ceremony was attended by a small number of gay rights activists and members of Pant's group. Pant said there have been a few same-sex wedding ceremonies among Nepalese people, but it was the first for a foreign gay couple."

The ceremony was conducted by Mukti Neupane, a 58-year old Hindu priest in Nepal’s capital: “He was apprehensive at first. But later agreed to conduct a proper ceremony that lasted over 30 minutes."

Recently, Pant announced that the country would hold its first-ever Gay Pride parade on August 25 in Kathmandu.

Nepal to Hold First Gay Pride Parade on August 25

On August 25th, Kathmandu, Nepal will hold the nation's first Gay Pride parade, says openly gay MP Sunil Pant:

Nepal Sunilpant "Pant said he hopes up to 3,000 gays, lesbians, transvestites and transsexuals from Nepal and neighbouring countries will march through the streets of the capital Kathmandu on August 25. The date has been chosen to coincide with a centuries-old Hindu festival when Nepalese men traditionally dress up in women's clothing, and which has in recent years been adopted by Nepal's increasingly vocal gay community. 'We want to make this a truly international event,' said Pant, a well-known gay rights campaigner. 'Nepal has made so much progress on gay issues in the last few years, and we hope to spread hope and inspire others.' ... Pant said the parade would feature live music and include elephants and horses dressed in bright colours, and would culminate with a candle-lit memorial service for victims of HIV and violence."


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