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LGBTI human rights work in crisis in Nepal

Moral running low at Nepal's biggest LGBTI rights organization, Blue Diamond Society, where staff haven't been paid for seven months
Sunil Babu Pant founder and head of Blue Diamond Society, Nepal's largest LGBTI rights organization, which is in crisis due to the government obstructing its funds

Nepal's biggest LGBT rights organization, Blue Diamond Society (BDS), is battling against low morale after wages have not been paid for seven months.

Founded in 2001, BDS successfully lobbied the government for recognition of a third gender and recently got LGBTI issues on the school curriculum.

It has achieved significant gains for LGBTI rights in the country but now their work is being thwarted by a government office.

The District Administration Office has sat on the charities' license renewal so that funding from international bodies, including the Global Fund, cannot be distributed to the organization, which employs 750 staff and has 42 offices across the country.

'It's demoralizing,' Saurav Jung Thapa, technical advisor to the HIV prevention program, told Gay Star News on a visit to their basic office in Kathmandu.

'Most of the members of staff are from the LGBTI community so I think there's a sense that it's a mission and we're going to get through this.'

Prasun Rana, a program manager said that some of their HIV prevention outreach workers who are ex-sex-workers are returning to sex work because they haven't been paid for their jobs for so long.

'It's increasing the risk of HIV, when we are supposed to be decrease it,' said Rana.

Founder of BDS Sunil Pant said that the head of the District Administration Office is also behind harassment of LGBT activists which has increased in the last few months.

'He is the one that mobilizes the police and the harassment isn't happening in other areas, it's only happening in Kathmandu,' said Pant. 'So there's a clear link.'

The UN's Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and Human Rights Watch have spoken out against the harassment and the non-renewal of BDS's license, but the District Administration Office has not acted.

Nepal's National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Health, who are supportive of BDS, have also contacted the District Administration Office urging allowing BDS to continue its work protecting LGBTI rights.

'We provide vital vital programs,' said Pant, 'especially programs to do with HIV prevention, treatment for people living with HIV, human rights, legal assistance. It's a humanity crisis for the LGBTI community in Nepal.'

But Pant said that the District Administration Office has not considered 'the community's amazing survival technique'.

'We have been discriminated against and ostracized for so long, since childhood,' said Pant. 'So we are somehow used to this. People think we are powerless and voiceless but we have enormous power, enormous capacity to stand-on through any difficult situation. We don't ever give-up.' 

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