Reaching the Unreached: fighting marginalization in Nepal

This content is in English.

Gender Justice is one of the strategic priorities of the ACT Alliance. In many countries, people with different sexual orientations and gender identities find themselves discriminated against and persecuted due to religious norms, societal perceptions and also legal frameworks. Just like in the case of Binod, a transgender person from Nepal. He found assistance at an organization supported by ACT Alliance member Christian Aid which believes that all human beings are equal and should not be discriminated against based on their gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, religious beliefs or political beliefs.

Binod is a 30-year old transgender man from Nepal who struggled to make ends meet. “I was in the verge of committing suicide. Fortunately, I got to know my partner, who introduced me to a social mobilizer from the Blue Diamond Society (BDS)”, he says. BDS – an LGBT rights organization in Nepal – is an affiliate organisation of ACT Alliance member Christian Aid in Nepal. Binod explains that for the first time in his life, he felt accepted. The psycho-social counselling provided by BDS helped him to understand that he was a trans man, and his life shouldn’t be governed by societal labels. “I met other people who identified themselves as trans men. Each one of us narrated stories of depression triggered by confused identity, and the lack of psychological support for trans people like us”, he shares.

Bullying and harassment

Being a trans man in Nepal is challenging. Hailing from a rural district, Binod’s childhood was filled with stigma and discrimination from his family, friends, and society. “I knew from the very beginning that even though I was born as a girl, I felt like a man”, he narrates. In school, he was mercilessly bullied because of his choice. “Girls were required to wear skirts and tie a ponytail, but I opted to wear pants. It was my way of telling the world that I felt like a boy. But my classmates didn’t get me. It hurt me, I was depressed. I knew that the cycle of hatred would not end, so I decided to run away and started working in a restaurant in the nearby city”, he continues. He took on odd jobs and finally ended up working in a mechanic shop. That’s when his lie was exposed. His colleagues at work threatened to call the police and have him arrested.

Reaching the Unreached

After this, Binod was determined to work for the rights of the transgender community and to advocate for stigma-free mental health services. He joined BDS as a social mobilizer himself for Christian Aid’s “Reaching the Unreached Project”, a year-long advocacy project designed to sensitize key stakeholders on the rights of the Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans (LBT) community. The project narrowed its focus to specifically work with the LBT population in response to evidence that the LBT population in Nepal is vulnerable to mental health issues. “I understand what it feels like not to have anybody to talk to, or services that are sensitive towards our needs. Therefore, through the “Reaching the Unreached” project, we are conducting workshops for health practitioners to be sensitive towards the needs of the LBT population. In these workshops we not only educate them on LGBTI issues, but through experiential games aspire to trigger a sense of empathy and respect in them”, explains Binod.

Collaboration with local governments

The project, along with social mobilizers like Binod, strategically lobbies local government officials to commit to better health services for trans people – focusing on mental health awareness. “It is important to collaborate with the local authorities. They have the power to introduce progressive steps to ensure the rights of the LGBTI community. Therefore, sensitization workshops for this group have been successful in sharing the multi-layered issues of the LGBTI community and garner their commitment to collaborate in order to establish a stigma and discrimination free society”, he states.

Promote mutual understanding with heterosexual communities

Another learning from the “Reaching the Unreached” project is the need to change the approach to LGBTI advocacy. LGBTI advocacy for acceptance and respect is a continuous and dedicated process, Binod explains. “We shouldn’t antagonize the heterosexual communities and always blame them for our situation. So, it is up to LGBTI advocates like us to sensitize and empathize with them, working together to build LGBTI acceptance in the society.”

ACT Alliance’s support

Millions of people like Binod worldwide struggle for acceptance of their sexual and gender rights. To promote the rights and well-being of LGBTQI community, ACT Alliance members like Christian Aid work collaboratively with LGBTQI organizations like the Blue Diamond Society, and work towards establishing a stigma and discrimination free society.

ACT Alliance has a Gender Policy which states that gender identity is a personal perception of one’s own gender which may or may not match with their sex assigned at birth, and this policy is binding on all 156 members of the alliance. It includes all of the attributes and characteristics that different cultures attach to belonging to one or the other sexes. ACT promotes strategies that guard against human rights violations perpetrated on the grounds of people’s gender identity. All people, irrespective of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law, including the rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Zero tolerance on gender-based violence during all times

Last but not least, ACT Alliance holds a zero-tolerance approach to gender-based violence, not only in armed conflicts, but also during peacetime. It ensures access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for all individuals so that they can make their own informed decisions concerning their sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.

For further information, please contact:

Anoop Sukumaran, ACT Alliance Regional Representative, mobile phone +66 901 98 69 66, E-mail anoop.sukumaran@actalliance.org

Stefanie Meier, Communications and Resource Development Officer Asia and the Pacific, mobile phone +66 99 241 11 39, E-mail stefanie.meier@actalliance.org

Picture courtesy Blue Diamond Society


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