KATHMANDU (Reuters Life!) - Resplendent in sequined evening gowns, more than a dozen gay men took to the stage in Nepal’s first homosexual beauty contest, urging authorities in the remote Himalayan nation to recognize their rights.
In the show billed as the “Pink Pageant”, 18 participants sashayed down the catwalk late on Thursday, wearing make-up and swinging their hips to Nepali pop music as the crowd whistled and cheered.
Homosexuality is mostly taboo in the conservative majority-Hindu nation. “Unnatural sex”, as it is termed by law, can fetch up to one year in jail.
In the three-hour show, participants dressed up in traditional Nepali costumes as well as Western evening dresses, and spoke of how they were rejected by their families and neglected by society.
“Give us also love just as you do to others,” said Tina, a contestant, wearing a long pink evening dress.
“To be a gay is not a crime. We are the citizens of this country,” said Bindiya, another participant.
Gays find it hard getting work and often do not get citizenship papers which are required for government jobs, to run a business and to get a passport, gay rights campaigners say.
“Hopefully the government will listen to them and ensure their rights,” said Sunil Pant, founder of Nepal’s gay rights group, the Blue Diamond Society, which organized the show.
Activists also accuse police and Maoists rebels — who have joined the political mainstream after ending their decade-long civil war — of harassing and intimidating homosexuals.
Police say they are detained when they cause “disturbances” in public places but are released quickly.
Nepal’s new constitution must ensure the rights of sexual minorities and end discrimination, participants added.
Following the end of the civil conflict, the country plans to hold elections this year for an assembly which will eventually draft a new constitution.