Nepal | November 15, 2019

Celebration of diversity and sexuality: country’s first pride parade

Aasna Sijapati/ Ankit Khadgi

“I kissed a girl and I liked it…..”

“My brother is gay and that’s okay.”

The first pride parade taking place in the pride month of June in the country witnessed participants swaying their bodies to a diverse range of pride anthems in Maitighar (Fibwa-Khya) today.

Hundreds of participants with decorative face paintings (being done on the spot by some participants themselves), colourful umbrellas, and vibrant clothes flooded the Mandala area in anticipation of the parade. Performers danced in the square while the crowd waved large pride flags in excitement.

A participant paints the face of another participant while taking part in Nepal’s first pride parade during the pride month, in Kathmandu, on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Photo: Ankit Khadgi/THT Online

The high-spirits, positive vibes and encouraging smiles welcomed everyone making the first pride parade more a celebration of diversity and intersectionality. The combination of people of various nationalities, ethnicities, sexual identities, and individuals with disabilities was a vital part of the parade.

The parade organised by Queer Youth Group (QYG) and Queer Rights Collective in collaboration with various organisations rallied from Maitighar (Fibwa-Khya) to New Baneshwar (Khuntoo).

Rukshana Kapali, a transgender social activist and a member of QYG was overwhelmed with emotions seeing the community come together to celebrate love and each other.

Rukshana Kapali, a transgender social activist and a member of QYG, stands with other participants holding a banner in Nepal’s first pride parade during the pride month, in Kathmandu, on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Photo: Ankit Khadgi/THT Online

When asked why Marginalised Orientations, Gender identities, And Intersex: MOGAI (pronounced: muggy), a new acronym for gender minorities was used for the parade, Kapali shared that they were looking for a term that included identities beyond just what the acronym “LGBTIQ” stands for.

This parade differed from the Pride March organised annually by the Blue Diamond Society that takes place during the festival of Gaijatra. Kapali explained the reason for organising a pride parade in June is to increase the visibility of the community and to provide a separate platform for members to celebrate their sexualities.

“While the support for the LGBT community is growing, there is a lack of awareness about the various sexualities like asexuals, pansexuals, bisexuals, and gender fluid,” shared Kim Thakuri, a participant who identifies as a non-binary pansexual.

One of the main aims of the parade was to shed light on the specific gender identities by holding placards that defined the wide range of sexual orientations, in not just Nepali and English, but multiple ethnic languages.

The parade also saw support from straight and heterosexual individuals who identify as allies of the community. “I am extremely happy to be a part of the parade and it’s amazing that my straight and cisgender friends are here to support me,” said Thakuri.

“Loving someone is not wrong. Everyone should be allowed to love whoever they want,” answered Praju Dotel an ally when asked why she was attending the event. While the urban areas are becoming more inclusive of the LGBT community, she expressed the need to spread awareness about the issue in remote areas of the country as well.

Although Nepal legalised homosexuality in 2007 AD as a result of the Sunil Babu Pant and Other vs Nepal Government court case, the LGBT community still struggles for equal participation and representation in various walks of life.

The new Nepali Civil and Criminal Code (Muluki Ain) that went into effect in August 2018 fails to recognise same-sex marriage and defines marriage as being a union between two people of the opposite gender — creating a hostile environment for LGBT couples.

“There has always been a romanticisation of Nepal as being one of the more tolerant countries in Asia; however, the ground reality is very different. The laws are not actually implemented making it more difficult for our community,” said Kapali.

She also discussed the importance of including topics surrounding the LGBT community in the Nepali curriculum to not just make students familiar with the concept but also make students within the community more comfortable in their school surrounding. Looking at definitions of ‘family’ beyond just a heteronormative lens might be a good first step, Kapali pointed out.

“I feel like these are my people. I know they won’t judge me and I can fully be myself here,” said an enthusiastic participant, Jyoti Shrestha, who identifies as gender fluid.

Talking about the stigmatisation of the LGBT community, Shrestha highlighted the prevalent gender-roles in our community that hinder the movement of Nepali society away from inclusivity of gender minorities.

“People here don’t know the specific terms used and although they know we exist, there is still taboo surrounding this topic,” continued Shrestha.

The pride month also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, that acted as a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.

The first of its kind, this pride parade boasted large youth participation and successfully delivered the message of equality, diversity and intersectionality in the Nepali context.

“Gradually people are becoming more aware and now I can connect with other people from the community more openly. So, I don’t feel like I am alone anymore,” said Shrestha, happily embracing their sexuality through their new buzzed hair-cut.


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