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Nepal govt shoves gays out of crucial HIV meet

Nepal govt shoves gays out of crucial HIV meet

Nepal’s interim government ignored the country’s growingly visible LGBT community and instead sent three officials to a crucial meet on HIV in Bangkok in a rampant misuse of World Health Organization (WHO) funds, the LGBT community says.

The three-day regional meeting in Bangkok from 21 August was to be an interaction of experts on men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders, people working with the community, and MSMs and transgenders living with HIV.

However, Nepal’s health ministry nominated three representatives, who, by their own admission, had little knowledge about the issue.

The trips were sponsored by WHO as Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia with little resources to attend such regional meetings.

‘So the crucial inputs for the meeting from Nepal’s successful MSM/transgender program wasn’t there, nor did the meeting have any idea which areas need prioritizing in Nepal for addressing the MSM/transgender HIV problem,” said a visibly distressed Sunil Pant, founder of Blue Diamond Society, the pioneering gay rights organization in Nepal.

Pant said Nepal was repeatedly misusing WHO funds.

‘This has happened over and over again,’ he said. ‘Last month, WHO funded (unrelated) people to participate in a similar HIV conference in Indonesia.’

The former member of parliament said though the LGBT community had raised the issue with both the health ministry and WHO officials, neither had responded.

Edmund Settle, policy specialist with the United Nations Development Programme, that technically supported the Bangkok meet, agreed that
the profiles of the participants should have included individuals who have direct experience on MSM programs, including experts from the community.

He also said that earlier HIV meets convened by UNDP had ensured community members’ presence.

To ensure that a young MSM living with HIV attended the meet, UNDP supported a representative from India.

‘It’s clear there was no representation of MSMs and transgenders from Nepal. We want to strongly raise these issues,’ said Roshan Mahato, national program coordinator at the Federation of Sexual and Gender Minorities, Nepal.

The Bangkok faux pas came even as Nepal’s LGBT community basked in the global limelight for hosting the annual gay pride, Gaijatra, last week.

The group, once marginalized and looked down upon, began to gain wider acceptance following a dogged campaign by Blue Diamond Society.

It resulted in Nepal’s apex court giving the nod to same-sex marriages and the government accepting the community’s recommendations while drafting a new constitution.

But the initial euphoria is now wearing off, especially as a succession of power-hungry governments failed to complete the constitution in time.

Now Nepal will hold elections once again in November to complete the constitution and the LGBT community has announced their intention to contest.