Nepal’s health ministry is being criticized for ignoring its LGBT community and misusing funds from the World Health Organization (WHO) after sending only three representatives to a conference about HIV in Bangkok, all of whom admitted to minimal, if any, knowledge abut HIV/AIDS.
The regional meeting, which was held from August 21-23, was scheduled to include a panel of experts on issues such as trans* people living with HIV and men who have sex with men (MSM). Politician and founder of the LGBT rights organization Blue Diamond Society, Sunil Babu Pant, said that the people and organizations Nepal didn’t send were vital for those in the country that are most at risk: “nor did [the Nepalese representatives at]the meeting have any idea which areas need prioritising in Nepal for addressing the MSM/transgender HIV problem.”
Pant is the first openly gay MP in Nepal, and the country is still highly conservative; the Blue Diamond Society is the only LGBT rights organization in the country. Pant didn’t hear the word “homosexual” for the first time until he was twenty—while studying abroad in Belarus.
According to Pink News, Pant reported that Nepal’s government has misused WHO funds before: “This has happened over and over again. Last month, WHO funded people to participate in a similar HIV conference in Indonesia.” He added that the Nepalese LGBT community had complained both to the country’s health ministry and WHO officials, but neither gave them a response.
Over a thousand LGBT activists marched in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, on August 21 to demand recognition and equal rights. Same-sex intercourse has been effectively legal since 2007, when the Nepalese Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition against it was unconstitutional, but while the law is no longer being enforced, it is still on the books.
On November 17, 2008, the Nepalese Supreme Court ruled that LGBT people have the right to full equality, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, but no laws regarding marriage equality or discrimination have yet been enacted.