Thursday, August 12, 2004

Nepal: Release Sexual Rights Defenders

For Immediate Release:
From: "Scott Long"
For more information, please contact:
In New York, Scott Long: +1-212-216-1297
In Brussels, Vanessa Saenen: +32-2-732-2009

Nepal: Release Sexual Rights Defenders

(New York, August 12, 2004) Nepalese authorities should release 39 members of a group defending sexual rights who were arbitrarily detained on Sunday, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the Nepalese government to end harassment of sexual minorities,including men who have sex with men and transgender people, and launch full investigations into allegations of violence against them.

On the evening of August 7, police in the capital Kathmandu carried out raids on restaurants, bars, and streets frequented by “metis,” or transgender people. . Thirty-nine people were arrested. All were members of the Blue Diamond Society, a nongovernmental organization that provides HIV-prevention services and engages in advocacy for the rights of sexual minorities. Those arrested have been detained at Hanuman Dhoka police station in the capital. While no charges have yet been filed,
officers reportedly told a Blue Diamond Society representative that homosexuals are “disturbing society.”

“The Blue Diamond Society has faced harassment from the Nepalese government as they defend the rights of some of the most vulnerable members of society,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Project at Human Rights Watch. “The Supreme Court’s recent threat to close down the group’s activities has now been followed by direct police action. Nepal’s government must
decide whether it wants to enforce homophobia or protect basic human rights.”

On July 12, a Nepalese Supreme Court judge ordered the Ministry of Home Affairs to show cause why the Blue Diamond Society should not be banned for advocating “open homosexual activities.” The Ministry has still not responded to the court order. In a July 23 letter to the Ministry, Human Rights Watch urged Nepalese authorities to respect basic freedoms of expression and association.

“In a context of an escalating civil war, respect for the rule of law is steadily eroding in Nepal,” said Long. “Nepalese authorities must show their commitment to ensuring basic rights for all people without discrimination.”

The Blue Diamond Society has documented a string of incidents in which “metis” and men suspected of homosexual conduct have been violently attacked, by police or other assailants. Most recently, early in the morning of August 7 in Kathmandu, three unidentified men reportedly attacked Jayaram, a “meti,” and cut his throat and nearly severed his finger. Jayaram remains hospitalized.

The Blue Diamond Society claims that police fail to investigate allegations of violent attacks on metis and men who have sex with men, and often participate in the violence.


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