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Minister Khadga Bahadur Biswokarma
Ministry of Women, Children & Social Welfare
Facsimile: +977-1-4241728; +977-1-4241516

Dear Minister,

Human Rights Watch is gravely concerned by anti-gay rhetoric and violence targeting people because of their presumed sexual orientation or the exercise of their sexual autonomy on the part of the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist. The most recent example of attacks by Maoists was the abductions in Sunsari of a woman and a teenage girl accused of having a sexual relationship with one another, accompanied by Maoist efforts to force them to become soldiers. These actions took place at amidst mixed messages from the Maoists, both recent castigation of homosexuals by senior officials and a recently announced policy “not to punish homosexuals.” As a part of the new Nepalese government, we urge you to affirm the protections of full equality for all and intervene to ensure that the woman and the girl are protected from further arbitrary detention or harm by party members or their own families; prevent the recruitment of child soldiers; permit organizations working on sexual rights to work free from interference; investigate the allegations of abductions and fully punish those held responsible; and protect all people of Nepal from campaigns which target them for abuse on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In the most recent incident, Maoists detained a 16-year-old girl and a woman, Sarita C., age 20, on suspicion of being involved in a sexual relationship with one another. The two were on their way to a celebration of the annual Hindu Holi festival in Pankali village in Sunsari district organized by the Human Welfare Society (HWS), a Nepali non-governmental organization working on issues of HIV/AIDS and human rights.

According to the Blue Diamond Society, another Nepali group working in the field of sexual rights, health, and HIV prevention, the two were held for a total of eight hours at the Maoist camp in Singiya village Sunsari. They were intensively interrogated about whether they were homosexuals, and informed by a Maoist cadre that they would have to “undergo a blood test to check if they were lesbians.” The Human Welfare Society was also summoned to the Maoist camp and subjected to part of the interrogation.

The girl and woman had been previously abducted and held in the Maoist camp at Lochani village in Morang District in late 2006. Prior to that, the girl’s family had used violence on several occasions against the couple and had demanded that the Maoists take action against them. At the camp, the Maoists called the couple derogatory names for homosexuals including “chakka” and “hijara.” and ordered them to join the Maoists as soldiers because it would lead them to the “straight life.” When they refused to carry weapons, they were deprived of food and beaten almost daily. After one month, they managed to escape.

These attacks stand in stark contrast with recent commitments made by Hisila Yami, the Minister for Infrastructure of Nepal’s interim government and Maoist member of parliament. In January 2007, at a program organized by the Blue Diamond Society, Minister Yami stated that the party had recently adopted a policy "not to encourage homosexual behavior but not punish homosexuals either.”

However, we are concerned that other statements by Maoist leaders give encouragement to assaults on the human rights and on the physical integrity of lesbians, gays, and metis (biological men who identify as women) in Nepal. In December 2006, Maoist senior leader and Minister of Local Development Dev Gurung told members of the Blue Diamond Society that, "Under Soviet rule and when China was still very much a communist state, there were no homosexuals in the Soviet Union or China. … Homosexuality is a production of capitalism. Under socialism this kind of problem doesn’t exist."

Furthermore, as part of a newly-launched Maoist campaign against so-called “social pollutants,” Maoist cadres have targeted suspected homosexuals. In December 2006, Maoists in Kathmandu, ordered house owners not to rent rooms to lesbians and gays. The former Maoist commander of Kathmandu Valley, known as Sagar, stated "We don't want to evict anyone. So we have asked house owners to allow tenants. However, we are against any aberrant activity that could have a negative and vitiating effect on society." Reinforcing the message, Amrita Thapa, general secretary of the Maoist women's association, told participants at a national conference in March 2006 that homosexuals were unnatural and were "polluting" society.

All persons, including children, are entitled to protection from violence and arbitrary detention and enjoy the rights right to freedom of association, assembly and expression. Human Rights Watch has recently condemned the CPN-M’s practice of recruiting child soldiers (see “Children in the Ranks: The Maoists’ Use of Child Soldiers in Nepal,” a Human Rights Watch report, February 2007). The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Nepal acceded in 1991, bars arbitrary arrest and detention, and prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In the 1994 case of Toonen v Australia, the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the UN body charged with monitoring states’ compliance with the ICCPR, held that sexual orientation should be understood as a status protected against discrimination by the treaty’s equality provisions. Under the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Nepal ratified in 1991, gender-based violence in both public and private may be considered a form of gender-based discrimination that CEDAW prohibits. Furthermore, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nepal ratified in 1990, obliges states to protect children from all forms of discrimination, arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, all forms of physical or mental violence, and against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Likewise, restricting the work of the Human Welfare Society represents an affront to the principles of freedom of association, assembly, and expression enshrined in the ICCPR.

Justice Edwin Cameron of the South African Supreme Court of Appeals visited Nepal in January 2007 for a conference on non-discrimination and Nepal’s new constitution. He shared lessons from South Africa’s legacy of apartheid as guidance for Nepal’s national renewal:

“A commitment to justice and equality is not measured by the easy cases, but by hard cases…A society that aspires to respect human rights cannot disrespect people because of sexual orientation. It is easy to endorse rights like free speech and dignity and socioeconomic benefits in the abstract: more difficult is to actualize equality and dignity by according marginalized groups like gays and lesbians the full protection and benefit of the law. And if a society fails that test, it fails the test of elementary human rights protection.”

The abduction of the girl and woman in this case is only one of numerous documented cases of arrests, rapes, and beatings of lesbians, gays, and metis in Nepal over the past several years. It also forms one part of a larger pattern of abuses of the rights of children by the Maoists. We are encouraged by the Maoist’s recent commitment not to harass lesbians, gays and metis; it is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. We urge the government to affirm human rights for all people in word and in action. We also urge you to work for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as statuses protected from discrimination in Nepal’s new constitution, as part of an overall commitment to ending egregious rights abuses and assuring equality for all.


Scott Long
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program


Minister Dev Prasad Gurung
Ministry of Local Development
Facsimile: +977-1-5522045

Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara
Ministry of Information and Communication
Facsimile: +977-1-4221729

Minister Gopal Rai
Ministry of Forest Soil Conservation
Facsimile: +977-1-224892

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