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Nepali gay rights
group honored

Nepali gay rights
group honored

The Blue Diamond Society, Nepal's growing LGBT civil rights group, has been granted an esteemed international award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

Blue Diamond founder Sunil Pant will be presented with the Felipa de Souza Award next month at ceremonies in New York and San Francisco.

The award acknowledges the courage and impact of grassroots groups and leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of LGBTs and others stigmatized and abused for their sexuality or HIV status. It carries a $5,000 stipend.

Pant founded Blue Diamond in 2001 to address the needs of Nepali sexual minorities and people living with HIV. The group's rise paralleled that of Nepal's democracy movement. The constitutional monarchy emerged in November from a decade of civil war, its Maoist guerrillas having signed a treaty to end hostilities and join its recently reinstated parliament.

No Nepali laws specifically criminalize homosexuality. Even so, Nepal has received U.N. criticism for its harsh treatment of sexual minorities. Nepali police continue to harass those who work in HIV prevention, Blue Diamond reports.

In 2006, 26 transsexuals were arrested in one raid and held without bail in the central police station for weeks without being able to contact anyone.

In January, Louise Arbour, U.N. high commissioner for Human Rights, slammed Nepal's new government for not protecting its LGBT population. In March, two female AIDS workers suspected of being lesbians were detained for a month and interrogated in a military camp, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported.

This week, Human Rights Watch, in an open letter to the Maoist government, called for an end to antigay violence in Nepal.

"As Nepal tries to recover from a decade of conflict, its leaders should make it clear that no one's rights are disposable," said Jessica Stern, a researcher in Human Rights Watch's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program.

"Abusing women for their sexuality and forcibly recruiting children are simply unacceptable in a new Nepal."

But despite adversity, the Blue Diamond Society continues to make strides for Nepal's growing gay community. The group has launched a weekly newspaper with editions in English and Nepali and plans to sponsor an LGBT film festival in May at Kathmandu's City Hall. (Hassan Mirza,

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