Tuesday, April 19, 2005

For Immediate Release: Nepal: Police Attack Transgender People

Pattern of Police Abuse Highlights Broader Threat to Civil Society

(Geneva, April 19, 2005) -- Police in Kathmandu attacked a group of transgender people on Wednesday, underscoring the vulnerability of all Nepalese to police abuse since King Gyanendra seized direct power in February and suspended most civil liberties, Human Rights Watch said today.

On April 13—the Nepalese New Year’s Eve—police attacked 18 metis (a traditional term for biological males who dress and identify as women) who were walking toward a festival in Kathmandu. Nine were severely beaten with batons, gun butts, and sticks.

“This attack is only the latest of a string of police assaults in Nepal against transgender people,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. In a country where political and civil rights have been suspended, the violence sends a message that no one who looks or acts differently can feel safe.

Officers from the Durbar Marg police station attacked the metis at about 11 p.m., as they walked along the Kantipath road of Kathmandu. One of the victims was reportedly threatened at gunpoint, beaten in the stomach with the butt of a gun, and kicked repeatedly. Another suffered a broken hand. The inspector of the Durbar Marg station reportedly watched the beatings from inside a nearby police van. The Durbar Marg police station is directly outside the gates of the Royal Palace, an area heavily surrounded by armed police and military.

The metis attempted to report the incident at the station, but police refused them entry. They went to the Bir Hospital, where their injuries were treated and recorded.

The Blue Diamond Society, a Nepalese nongovernmental organization defending sexual rights and sexual health, has documented numerous such incidents. For instance, on the night of December 12, 15 policemen in the Jamal district of Kathmandu attacked two metis on the street. The assailants wore civilian clothes but reportedly showed police IDs. They took the victims to Tundhikel, a large open field in central Kathmandu, threatened them with guns, and beat and raped them.

On August 9, 39 metis who were members of the Blue Diamond Society were picked up in police raids in Kathmandu. They were held for more than two weeks in the Hanuman Dhoka police station, and denied adequate food or visitation rights. Several were beaten and raped.

The Blue Diamond Society’s very existence has been under attack since last year. On July 5, police dispersed a rally which the Society had organized to protest violence, beating several of the protesters. A week later, Justice Ram Prasad of Nepal’s Supreme Court acted on a petition received from a private lawyer, asking to ban the Blue Diamond Society on the grounds that it violated the prohibition of “unnatural sex” in Nepal’s criminal code.

Under international pressure, the Ministry of Home Affairs in August told the court it would not support banning the Blue Diamond Society, on the grounds that there is no specific law to take action against homosexuals” in Nepal. However, the court case remains open. Hearings on January 18 and March 18 were inconclusive; a new hearing is scheduled for May 10.

“The attempt to shut down the Blue Diamond Society was an early warning of the pattern that is now evident –to effect a comprehensive crackdown on civil society in Nepal,” said Long. “The government must restore civil liberties and respect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression and association.”

For more information, please contact:

In New York, Scott Long: +1 212 216 1297, +1 646 641
5655; Sam Zarifi: +1 212 216 1825

In Delhi, Tej Thapa: +91 98716 18834


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