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(New York) -- The Nepalese government should respond to a threatened judicial ban on an organization that defends lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s rights by affirming the freedoms of association and expression, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Nepalese authorities.

On June 18, a private lawyer petitioned the Nepalese Supreme Court to shut down the Blue Diamond Society, a nongovernmental organization working in the areas of sexual health and human rights. The petition accused the group of trying to “make homosexual activities legal,” and demanded it be banned because homosexual conduct is criminalized in Nepal.

In response to the petition, the Supreme Court gave the Ministry of Home Affairs until July 27 to show why “open homosexual activities” should not be banned in Nepal. Pointing to recent allegations of police abuse in Nepal based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Human Rights Watch urged the ministry to confirm its commitment to protecting human rights without discrimination.

“In trying to stifle the voices of sexual minorities, Nepal demonstrates its indifference to basic rights of expression and assembly,” said Scott Long, Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “In trying to silence those who document police abuse, the Nepalese government shows its determination to punish the messenger.”

While there is no provision in Nepalese law that explicitly criminalizes homosexual conduct, Part 4, Chapter 16 of Nepal’s civil code (Muluki Ain) punishes “any kind of unnatural sex” with up to one year in prison. This provision has been used to justify arrests of men who have sex with men and transgender people.

The Blue Diamond Society provides peer support and HIV/AIDS education for lesbians, gays, metis (transgender persons) and men who have sex with men. The organization also engages in public education campaigns about sexuality and human rights. It has repeatedly filed official complaints over police abuse of the communities it supports.

Most recently, on July 5, the Blue Diamond Society organized a demonstration in the capital Kathmandu to protest recent incidents of violence, including sexual abuse, against metis and men who have sex with men. As a group of approximately 50 demonstrators tried to march peacefully from the Bhadrakhali Temple toward

Singha Durbar to present a petition to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, police reportedly dispersed the group violently, beating several of the protesters.

“Police violence, coupled with the judicial threat to shut down an organization that provides HIV/AIDS education, drives people at high risk even further underground, and only worsens the spread of the pandemic,” said Long.

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