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The LGBTI rights movement in Nepal, which has been ongoing for more than two decades, has often been hailed as a beacon of progressiveness within the South Asian region. However, beneath the celebratory facade, a complex reality persists. While Nepal’s legal landscape took a significant step forward with the decriminalization of consensual same-sex activity in 2007 and the recognition of third gender options on various official identification documents, the pursuit of genuine equality for the LGBTQ+ community remains a formidable challenge. Equal access to citizenship, marriage rights, healthcare, education, employment opportunities, and social security continues to be denied to many LGBTI individuals.
What underscores these challenges is the deeply entrenched patriarchy that shapes societal perceptions, particularly regarding marriage equality. Despite the Constitutional safeguards provided by Nepal’s 2015 Constitution through Articles 12, 18, and 42, which guarantee fundamental rights for LGBTI individuals, the practical implementation of these rights remains a pressing concern. Organizations like Mitini Nepal are instrumental in advocating for the meaningful realization of these legally protected rights. A recent development that sheds light on the existing gaps is the outcome of Nepal’s 12th national population census conducted in 2021. The data published on March 24, 2022, revealed that the population of sexual and gender minorities accounted for a mere 0.01 percent of the total population, with regional variations in representation. However, this representation was incomplete and inadequately captured the nuances of the LGBTI community. The census failed to recognize the community as a distinct category in the main questionnaire, an oversight that has led to a lack of comprehensive data concerning their unique needs and challenges. While the Central Bureau of Statistics has expressed intent to conduct specialized surveys to address this gap, it underscores the necessity of recognizing the LGBTI community’s distinct identity.
MNFLI (Mitini Nepal Fund for Local Initiatives) is a groundbreaking initiative by Mitini Nepal, supported by the Foundation for a Just Society (FJS). It focuses on community-based advocacy to empower organizations and individuals working for the rights of sexual and gender minorities. These organizations play a vital role in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, providing support, and creating safe spaces for the community. By strengthening their capacity, we can promote social change, raise awareness, and foster greater acceptance and understanding in society. Supporting CBOs is essential for building a more inclusive and equal world for sexual and gender minorities. By fostering direct engagement, knowledge sharing, and collaboration among Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) from different provinces, MNFLI enhances their capacity and sustainability. Through lobbying and advocacy efforts, it seeks to change societal attitudes towards LGBTI groups, promoting equality and inclusion. MNFLI's presence at the local level raises awareness, helping reduce stigma and discrimination. It is a vital step towards building a more accepting and supportive society for sexual and gender minorities in Nepal.