This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity
Sunil Pant: Thank you Madame Chair, also MP, distinguished speaker panelists and friends. Thank you for your welcome. It's great to be here today and to be part of this conference.
Let me acknowledge the conference coordinating group and funders, particularly Barry, sitting somewhere here, who had been in an email contact to me to bring me over here. And also Rainbow Wellington; without their support I wouldn't be here today.
Let me quickly take you through some of the pictures I have put together from the inception of Blue Diamond Society, which I will talk about; the photo itself evidence to speak to the issues, the problems, the struggles, the justice, culture, pageants, pride and lives of LGBTIs in Nepal.
We basically started from scratch, and I think this picture is one of the few when we started Blue Diamond Society – early years.
A lot of violence until 2007, so this is in 2003 that two meetings were called for the male-to-female third genders in Nepal who'd been arrested and then raped and brutally beaten up by the army police force. This is another attempted murder of a transgender person by another army officer. These are other beatings, people trying to celebrate New Year in 2062. We are in 2068 now, the year.
This is also doing outreach peer work of raising awareness of condoms and HIV. He was beaten up on his face.
Then a picture of one of the frequent, arbitrary arrests of LGBTIs in Nepal.
This is the International Day Against Homophobia we've started celebrating from 2006, and it's at the public space and police were asking what we were doing. We explained to the police what we were doing.
Okay, and then the previous picture, which slipped quickly, was about filing the writ petition to the Supreme Court, and then we were waiting for the decision. After the Court decision this is the first legal ID that was given to a third-gender person, Bishnu, and in the column of "Gender" it's written "Third." It's in Nepali.
And then two pictures of various lobbying, empowerment training, and leadership building.
This is a transgender son there sitting with the Prime Minister on the International AIDS Day last year.
Various leadership training of how to do public speaking, aligning your vision with the organization vision, so all the LGBTI take place and strategize their own way forward, part of several leadership courses, and also they are trained how to do public speaking at the training.
And this is a sit-in protest demanding legal ID, and this is another interaction programme.
The Gaijatra Festival, theatre pageants. This is a picture of Pride Festival we did last year, 2010.
Nepal also officially promotes tourism, and the Tourism Minister of Nepal welcomed gay and lesbian visitors in his masses in one of those days.
We also have a transgender choir, All Queer Choir they're called, and they sing beautifully, like we saw the Maoris last night.
And we have several other cultures: the deities and some of also the Panthic deities paintings I have here – very graphic.
This is Maruni cultures. It still exists. Young male – very feminine – or third genders dancing and performing dances called Maruni.
This is Ardhanareshore, a tranpanthic Hindu and Buddhist deity closely associated with gender, mostly third gender or various gender roles.
This is also Ardhanareshore, Lord Shiva's both male and female form.
Standing White Lokeshore, also considered to be neither male nor female.
Kumari, as you see more in dress a drag queen, Kumari.
This is another painting of Ardhanareshore. These are widely available. You can get postcards and stuff in Nepal.
And Sukhasiddhi, if you worship this Goddess you get all the bliss and all the satisfaction – that's what they believe. The naked picture of a woman deity.
Amogsiddhi, also another one that whatever you wish is fulfilled.
And this is Avaloketishore in other paintings. This one is the original one from, I think, 4th Century, BC. A Buddhist deity of compassion.
More glimpses of Nepal. It's basically the recorded stories, a record of the Nepali village home – house. There's mountains close; not far from Katmandu, taken by myself.
And this is Buddha on a stoop in Katmandu.
And for your information, we have Pink Mountain Travels and Tours.
So, let me now move to my speech. I value you all who have gathered here. The organizations and people you represent, the roles you play and potential you have to shape the world of tomorrow. In particular I believe that the AsiaPacific Outgames organizers have a vital role to play in accelerating the process of the LGBTI rights in AsiaPacific through such games and such human-rights conferences. I'm supportive of the mission. I believe our success and AsiaPacific's success.
I have come this morning to talk with you on one of the probably last issues of human rights in our time: that is ending discrimination over human diversity and ensuring full freedom of all beings. And New Zealand is the place to talk about ending discrimination and preserving full freedom because here, on this soil, discrimination against humans by humans on the ground of so-called superiority, the powers of evil that try to destroy civilization has been tackled successfully by the natives, the Maoris. And the roots of human freedom have long ago struck deep, and here they have been richly nourished.
The decisive importance of liberty, freedom and dignity of LGBTI people is yet to be fully recognized still by quite a few member states of the United Nations. Concern for the prevention and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedom stands at our hearts, regardless of human diversity. We're working hard to boost the progress of the LGBTI rights, equality and equal opportunity, because growing freedom is ultimately what will provide LGBTI and our families the jobs, security, shelter, education, health care, freedom and choices that we aspire to and deserve.
It's that desire to build a brighter future which lies at the heart of Blue Diamond Society's relationship agreement with the AsiaPacific LGBTI rights movements. A movement needs visionary leaders, and visionary leaders are the builders of the new [?], working with imagination, insight and boldness. They work with a power of dedication with higher hope, higher purpose. They are social innovators and change things, seeing the big picture and thinking strategically.
We share a commitment to improving the lives and prospects of all LGBTIs, and indeed of all Nepalis, and our confidence and courage has enabled us to work across a number of fronts to achieve that. Good relationships are the heart of effective movement building. The movements embody a deeply caring approach to people, seeing them as their greatest asset. The most effective leaders of the movement are responsive to the real needs of people and they develop participative strategies to include people in designing their own futures.
We have forged a strong relationship and one which I think has had a very positive impact on the work of Nepali government and the lives of Nepalese LGBTIs. In saying that, I recognize that while the government can provide the environment and policy settings for success, ultimately it is us, the LGBTI activists, entrepreneurs and innovators, the workers who will generate greater equality and wealth and growth in Nepali democracy and in its economy.
Similarly, we should look to ourselves for the ideas and energy that will fuel development for AsiaPacific, including my own country, Nepal, and for all of us.
So, the question for such a conference is how can you, working with government and your wider community, support LGBTI to grow their asset base and the benefits that flow from that? How can we unlock and boost the potential value in LGBTI-held assets? I view the AsiaPacific Outgames as an excellent network, like Blue Diamond Society in Nepal, for bringing together the voices, the people, and the ideas that together can answer those questions.
We know there is a great foundation to build on. Great things have already been achieved in AsiaPacific. In the 10 years from 2001 to 2011 in Nepal the out LGBTI have grown up from 1 to more than 300,000. The situation has changed from violence to respect. The reach has expanded from Ratna Park, a tiny park at the center of Katmandu, to Rolpa, a remote district in the far west of Nepal, and made the recent governments of Nepal support LGBTI issues at national and local levels as well as international levels. The progress reflects a lot of hard work and a huge contribution by all Nepali LGBTIs, and with significant support from our sisters and brothers abroad. It reflects the flourishing of LGBTI movements and the development of new ideas and ways of doing things from far west to east of Nepal, from Terai, the plains in the south of Nepal, to the Himal, the mountains in the north, from cities to the villages.
In part it also reflects the successful transfer of leadership via the training, coaching, dialogue, one-on-one conversation and forming the foundation of Sexual and Gender Minorities in Nepal back in 2007, which have 30 organizations as members.
I want to talk a little about the process today. I want to reflect on where we have come to so far in the last decade and what that means for LGBTI social, economic and political development. We take as a great deal of importance the rights and opportunities negotiation process and on completing fair and final settlement, not because we believe it is the most important issue for LGBTI but because, like many of you, our goal is to move beyond grievances towards the brighter, more prosperous future we all seek. So, we give everything to build the new constitution, and we will only accept the new constitution when it has guaranteed full rights, equality and non-discrimination for LGBTIs in Nepal.
We have seen the draft Criminal and Civil Law prepared by the Law Ministry, and we condemn the process it excluded us from their drafting process. We also are deeply concerned with the proposals the drafts have made in the draft Civil and Criminal Code. They don't acknowledge transgender – we call them third genders in Nepal. We refute the drafted law because it says only men and women can marry, and as a heterosexual couple only. This is unacceptable, and we can't let the Law Ministry take it forward when it indicates LGBTI people are criminal, which is against the Supreme Court decision and against the draft Constitutional provisions. The State must not dictate to us to lead lives against our will and nature. The new laws must allow LGBTIs to live life with freedom, dignity and opportunities.
It's that positive, forward-looking part of the draft Constitution and legal change process that another Ministry, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare is taking ahead. That excites me. We must stop looking in the rear-view mirror at grievances past, and at this stage shift our energies and focus towards building a stronger foundation for the future. Don't you think it would be wise for all the governments in AsiaPacific to focus on development, how to tackle poverty, how to bring people and communities together in a state of targeting the LGBTI communities, who have nothing to survive?
Movement builders execute with confidence. Successful movement builders know where they want to go and how to get there. They believe in themselves and others believe in them too. The result is teamwork, shared goals and improved morale. The last 10 years:
In 2000 - Starting an out initiative in Ratna Park.
2001- Registering Blue Diamond Society.
2002 - Came out. Started from myself.
2003 - Starting to address human-rights violations of LGBTIs.
2004 - Taking the human rights abuse matters to the UN.
2005 - Expand the programme in Katmandu, Patan, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Birgunj. That's five of the major cities in Nepal.
2006 - Joining and leading the people's movement Jana Andolan 2nd.
2007 - Taking the government to the Court.
2008 - Standing for the Constitution Assembly election and more expansion of networks and programmes.
2009 - Introducing the leadership programme, working with district local governments, working with the political parties.
2010 - Working with the Ministries.
2011 - Will become another milestone-setting year. With our joint efforts we will make this year one of the most historic ones again.
New LGBTI leaders not only from Nepal but from other countries in AsiaPacific should see the experience of Nepali LGBTI leadership, who still stand and fight from the year 2000, 2001, and how much we have achieved in the intervening period. We, especially the new generation of LGBTI, don't wish to spend more time and money on litigation and negotiation. It should be ensured by the new law and new constitution. We all want to focus on careers, development, contribute and make a lot of progress and move on. And you should focus towards that and work hard to achieve that.
As well as helping restore the honor of the LGBTIs the constitutional guarantee of equality will help build a future for the progress base for LGBTIs in Nepal. We are moving on from a time when LGBTI leadership and resources have been heavily focused on resolving historic cultural and legal injustices, and we are fast moving to an era in which that energy will be increasingly devoted to political and economic development and business opportunities for the present and future.
Specific achievements that need to be mentioned include implementing the historic Supreme Court decision made on the 21st of December, 2007, declaring all LGBTIs are natural people and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Our right to life, freedom and dignity was guaranteed by the Court. It now must be translated into national laws and into the new constitution. The first major milestones to be achieved within the process have already been marked, including the Memorandum of Understanding between Blue Diamond Society and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare to eliminate all the discriminatory laws against us. The Same-Sex Marriage Committee is considering giving marriage equality to all LGBTIs in Nepal.
The Gender Equality Bill that the Law Ministry is preparing to present to the Parliament also must include LGBTIs. How can the Gender Equality Bill be called the Gender Equality Bill and not talk about third genders or transgender? I seriously recognize that we need to work within this existing system, and people within the Law Ministry in Nepal, a great deal.
History will judge us on our efforts to establish equality for all, but it will also judge those from the governments who are in power and who can pass the policies, how fair and just they have been introducing new laws and constitution. Future generations will judge them even more.
When we sat in front of the [?] which you saw in the picture, the government hub of Nepal, and got arrested, it's easy to forget there was considerable disquiet from media and civil society that government was doing injustices to us, the gays, lesbians and transgenders, not even issuing citizenship ID to the legal citizens of Nepal. Media and civil society and the international community also contributed prominently to highlight the discrimination we had been facing and forced the government to take a step back. And we were released and the Prime Minister promised that he will issue the citizenship ID, the legal ID, as soon as possible. We are waiting for that day.
As many of you may know, during our early years the third gender, Jaya, had her throat slit after being raped, and 39 Blue Diamond Society members were arrested in 2004, and there were many more such incidents. We had a tremendously difficult time, but we stood strong and stood unshaken and established ourselves much stronger, and forced the government to recognize us, showed the government that we were not here to vanish in the dark. We are telling them that until we have justice and equality we will not remain quiet, and we will not leave you quietly.
My sense as a traveler around the country and internationally, visiting communities, schools and homes, is that most of the members of these societies, LGBTIs included, want to: move the conversation on, accept us as part of family and society, and believe in the principle of live and let live; to move on from a conversation of past injustices to one about how to address LGBTI underachievement, about how to deliver all-class educational standards to ensure LGBTI have the skills and resources we need to succeed, and how to ensure that LGBTI children and families have good jobs and high aspirations.
The desire to see LGBTI improve their lot in life, to be better equipped to succeed and to no longer be overrepresented in negative statistics associated with education, health and crime lay at the heart of why both the national and local parties choose to work together even though neither party are compelled to do so.
I hope that this conference and the support provided by Outgames is a vehicle for LGBTI activists to think about how dedication and courage can boost efforts, and how you can strengthen your relationship with the wider social sector, especially with your governments.
The second big opportunity I would like to see is that of more regional Outgames within the AsiaPacific region, as the AsiaPacific region is vast in many ways, and most of the world population resides in AsiaPacific. It's important for LGBTI to make the most of Wellington's time in the spotlight, focusing and maximizing the social, economic and political return of the Outgames. I also would like to suggest that the Outgames could serve as a great opportunity for LGBTI business to showcase their products and innovative businesses ideas as well as creating connection with international markets.
Which brings me to the third opportunity, which lies in making the most of Nepal's considerable legal and constitutional advancement to inspire other countries in the region. I think there is a great potential for LGBTI development and livelihoods to stand together to make the most of these opportunities. Networks like Outgames are very important in this regard.
In closing my presentation today let me repeat that I think the future of LGBTIs in AsiaPacific is brighter than ever. Organizations like Outgames are important vehicles for bringing the leaders and thinkers together, and conferences like this are a great way of sparking the ideas, aspirations and movements that will lead the way.
I wish you all the best for the year ahead and look forward to talking with you this afternoon. Thank you very much.
Transcript by cyberscrivener.com