Nepal: Government excludes gay community from HIV meeting

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Nepal’s interim government has been criticised for ignoring the country’s gay community and misusing funds after it sent only three officials to a HIV conference in Bangkok.

The three-day regional meeting in Bangkok from 21 August was set to be include a host of experts on ‘men who have sex with men,’ (MSM) and transgender people living with HIV.

The Nepal health ministry however, was accused of misusing funds from the World Health Organisation (WHO), when it nominated only three representatives, who admitted they had little to no knowledge about the issue.

Blue Diamond Society founder Sunil Pant said: “The crucial inputs for the meeting from Nepal’s successful MSM/transgender program wasn’t there, nor did the meeting have any idea which areas need prioritising in Nepal for addressing the MSM/transgender HIV problem.”

The first openly gay Nepalese MP also said the country was repeatedly misusing WHO funds.

He added: “This has happened over and over again. Last month, WHO funded people to participate in a similar HIV conference in Indonesia.”

Mr Pant said that although the LGBT community had raised the issue with the health ministry and WHO officials, neither had responded.

Edmund Settle, policy specialist with the United Nations Development Programme, agreed that the individuals taking part should have included experts from the community.

He also said that earlier HIV meets had made sure to include gay and transgender people in their discussions.

Roshan Mahato, national program coordinator at the Federation of Sexual and Gender Minorities in Nepal, said: “It’s clear there was no representation of MSMs and transgenders from Nepal.

“We want to strongly raise these issues.”

Earlier this month, over a thousand LGBT campaigners marched through Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, to demand more rights and greater recognition from the country.

Events organiser, Bhumika Shrestha called on the Government to do more to enhance LGBT rights in the country and said, “this is the day when we gay people are able to come out in the open without any fear or shame to celebrate with our community.”

Homosexuality was legalised in Nepal in 2007 after the fall of the Monarchy and the Supreme Court has ordered that same-sex relationships be recognised but this is yet to take affect.

However, despite having an openly gay MP, Nepal is still a conservative country and discrimination is still a problem in Nepalese society, one attendee of the march said: “We are here to appeal to the general public so they stop all types of discrimination against us.”