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Homosexuals in Nepal hail Delhi High Court verdict

Thursday, 2 July 2009 - 5:12pm IST | Place: Kathmandu | Agency: IANS

Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal's first openly homosexual MP, hoped that Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka would follow suit.

The homosexual community in Nepal today hailed the ruling by the Delhi High Court legalising sex between consenting adult homosexuals, calling it a "liberalisation from  British colonialism" and hoping that it would lead to similar freedom in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

"Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code [which makes sodomy a criminal offence] was a legacy of the British colonialisation of India," said Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal's first openly homosexual member of Parliament and founder of the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), which pioneered the homosexual rights movement in the conservative Himalayan republic in 2002.

"Before British rule began, homosexuality was an accepted culture," Pant claimed. "Look at the 4,000-year-old hijra culture in India, the Khajuraho paintings, ancient poetry where it was part of romantic love. Though India won its freedom in 1947, the British shackles on homosexuality remained.

"But it has [sic] been thrown off finally. We congratulate India's sexual minorities."

Nepal's homosexual community had been watching the Naz Foundation's battle against the section with interest as well as empathy. In January, Pant campaigned against the law in Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai. Last year, when Pranab Mukherjee visited Kathmandu as India's external affairs minister, Pant spoke to him about the attacks on eunuchs and homosexual rights activists by police in Bangalore.

"We also have a close relation with Naz Foundation," Pant said. "We have been working together for nearly seven years in the fields of human rights, sexual rights, and HIV/Aids prevention."

In 2007, Nepal's homosexual rights movement got a boost with the country's Supreme Court accepting homosexuals as 'natural persons' and ordering the government to ensure that their rights were protected.

With the winds of change blowing through Nepal and India, Pant is hoping that other members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation — Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives — would eventually see the scrapping of the law in their respective penal codes.

"It has been a long fight against injustice, but today it is extremely heartening to hear the Delhi High Court uphold the principle of justice," Pant said.

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