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'The assertion that LGBT rights are incompatible with Asian values is false,' says Nepal gov minister

Strategies devised for improving LGBT rights in Asia at UN seminar in Kathmandu, Nepali gay rights activist criticizes government for not renewing group's license
Nepal's Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Riddhi Baba Pradham who gave the welcoming address at the UN Regional Seminar on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity in Kathmandu, March 22-23 2013

LGBT rights activists from across Asia gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal last week for a UN seminar to discuss strategies in the region.

'I laud the courage you have shown despite the circumstances you live and work in, said Nepal's Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Riddhi Baba Pradham, AFP reports.

'This conference in Kathmandu proves that the common assertion that LGBT rights are incompatible with Asian values is false.'

The two-day seminar included a panel discussion on topics such as the success of national human rights body's protection of LGBTI people in Asia, transgender health, the impact of laws which criminalize aspects of LGBTI life, positive law and good practice and how international human rights law can end discrimination.

Speaker Sunil Pant, Asia's first openly gay federal politician, highlighted Nepal's LGBT rights achievements, such as government protections of rights, Everest Bank's third gender option for account holders and sympathetic TV shows.

'If Nepal is ready to make these adjustments, then many countries like India are also long ready,' said Pant.

'It is just few vocal fanatics on the grounds of “politics or religion or morality” who wish to think that society is not ready. The reality, however, is that society in general is always ready to respect one another, support each other, living in harmony together - regardless of whom we choose to love.'

Pant also spoke about the achievements of his organization, the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) and took the opportunity to criticize the authorities for not renewing the LGBTI rights group's license.

'Blue Diamond Society now provides employment to 750 LGBTI staff across Nepal, out reached more 450,000 MSM and LGBTI who are receiving our HIV related services, legal aid and human rights training across Nepal,' said Pant.

BDS's license was not renewed following accusations that Pant was improperly withdrawing two salaries from government sources.

'If there are issues related to me, I should be held accountable, arrest me if I am proven to be corrupt but do not punish the entire LGBTI population because of your prejudice against us,' Pant said.

Gay Star News has contacted the Nepal government for a comment regarding the discontinuation of BDS's license but not received a response.  

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