Nepal’s Supreme Court has slammed a world-famous charity which detained a vulnerable woman against her will and tried to ‘cure’ her of being a lesbian.
The charity Maiti Nepal counts British TV celebrity, actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley as an ambassador and has been supported by Hollywood star Demi Moore, among others. The founder won CNN’s hero of the year award in 2010.
The charity is supposed to stop the trafficking of women and girls from Nepal into India where they are forced into prostitution.
Instead they detained Shahi and tried to counsel her to change her sexual orientation.
In fact there is no way to ‘cure’ someone’s sexuality and being gay is no longer considered an ‘illness’ by any credible psychological association in the world. The World Health Organization has said ‘conversion therapy’ is misguided, useless and dangerous for its victims.
Shahi left her abusive husband because she was attracted to other women.
She told the court: ‘[During my marriage I was] mentally tortured with traditional type of conservative psychoanalysis and upon using anti-social or bad language towards me.’
She started divorce proceedings but he threatened to kill her. And when she fled and entered a lesbian relationship, he enlisted the support of the Nepal’s National Women’s Commission to get her back.
The commission recommended she be sent to a rehabilitation centre run by Maiti Nepal in Kathmandu to undergo psychological treatment.
Activists at a Nepalese lesbian rights organisation took the case to the country’s highest court.
They said they were refused access to Shahi while she was at the center – something she also complained about in her testimony to the court.
An activist said Shahi has been detained for 50 days.
On 28 May the court ordered she be immediately released, saying it is up to her to choose who she has sexual relationships with.
Nepal’s National Women’s Commissioner Mohna Ansari admitted the incident.
She said: ‘We are glad the court ordered her released if that’s what she wanted, but we do not work on the basis of whether a woman is heterosexual or homosexual so we are shocked at the allegations.’
The Maiti Nepal has won international acclaim for their work in combatting human trafficking from Nepal, where an estimated 12,000 girls are trafficked each year into India’s lucrative sex industry.
Anuradha Koirala, the group’s founder, was awarded a ‘CNN Heroes Award’ in 2010 for her work.
Hollywood star Demi Moore hosted a TV programme called ‘Nepal’s Stolen Children’ highlighting the organization’s work.
While British actress Joanna Lumley has championed the group’s work and is one of their ambassadors.
Lumley’s agent told Gay Star News she was away at the moment but her understanding was she was just one of many ambassadors for this charity.
GSN offered the charity repeated opportunities to comment but so far they have not done so.