Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Assists IGLHRC on LGBTI Rights with Nepali Government
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, December 21, 2009
Los Angeles — The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Lambda Legal are working with Nepali government leaders as they explore how to include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in the country's laws. Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel and National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, returned this week from two weeks in Kathmandu at the invitation of Nepali lawmakers to advise the government's eight-member study and drafting committee. The committee will present its recommendations to the Nepali Parliament in 2010. Pizer's trip was organized and sponsored by IGLHRC, and continues that organization's technical support of LGBTI advocates in the Himalayan nation and across Asia.
"Nepal has become a world leader in LGBTI rights," said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC's Executive Director. "We commend Nepali lawmakers for their outreach to and consideration of the LGBTI community and we congratulate the civil society in Nepal on their advocacy and success. These efforts should be a model for nations seeking to develop legal protections for LGBTI people."
Prior to the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that directed Nepal's Parliament to end all forms of legal discrimination against the LGBTI community, police abuse was common, including the 2004 murder of a meti (transgender woman) by a police officer. Resulting from the ruling was a study and drafting committee which includes representatives of the ministries of law, population and environment, as well the National Commission on Human Rights and national police. According to the Supreme Court's direction, the committee will consider how other countries have extended full rights–including the right to marry–to their LGBTI citizens.
"It's extraordinarily encouraging that the senior government officials who make up this committee are so committed to educating themselves about the lives of LGBTI people and to extending full citizenship to this and other marginalized minority groups," said Pizer. "Other countries, including the United States, would do well to follow their example. The Court's decision is part of a growing international awareness that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination causes real harm to real people. The timing, just as Nepal is drafting a new constitution and inspired to secure equality for all Nepali citizens, couldn't be better."
Activist Sunil Pant – now a member of Parliament and of the Constituent Assembly drafting the new constitution – founded the Blue Diamond Society to help the LGBTI community defend itself. The Blue Diamond Society and three other groups filed the successful 2007 lawsuit demanding the government recognize the civil rights of transgender (or "third gender") people without requiring them to affirm one gender identity instead of another; create a new law forbidding discrimination and violence against LGBTI communities; and require the state to make reparations to LGBTI victims of state violence and discrimination.
"The Court found that LGBTI people are 'natural persons' and that we deserve the same protections as everyone else," said Pant. "The extraordinary thing is that Nepal is in many ways still a very conservative, traditional country. The movement for LGBT rights is just beginning, but the Court and the government have thus far outpaced many western countries with long-established civil rights movements. We still face many problems, but we've made an enormous amount of progress in a short time."
Pant hopes to arrange for the study and drafting committee to travel to countries that have eliminated the different-gender requirement for marriage and that provide other essential legal protections to LGBTI people couples.
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The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading international organization dedicated to advancing human rights for everyone, everywhere to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. www.iglhrc.org
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. www.lambdalegal.org