September 19, 2015 at 10:10 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
New Nepal constitution includes LGBT-specific protections

B'More Proud, gay news, Washington Blade

Lawmakers in Nepal last week approved a new constitution that includes sexual orientation and gender.

Lawmakers in Nepal have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that extends protections to the country’s LGBT citizens.

The Associated Press reported that members of the South Asian country’s Constituent Assembly on Sept. 16 by a 507-25 vote margin backed the charter that contains several references to gender and “sexual minorities.”

“All citizens shall be equal before the law,” reads Article 18, titled Right to Equality. “No person shall be denied the equal protection and benefit of the laws.”

“Nothing shall be deemed to prevent the making of special provisions by law for the protection, empowerment or advancement of the interests of socially and culturally disadvantaged women, Dalits, indigenous peoples, tribes, Madhesi, Tharu, Muslim, ethnic minorities, backward classes, minorities, marginalized, farmers, workers, youth, children, senior citizens, gender and sexual minorities, handicapped persons, pregnant persons, disabled or helpless, people of backward regions and economically disadvantaged citizens,” it reads.

Article 42, titled Right to Social Justice, specifically includes “gender and sexual minorities.” Article 12 addresses citizenship “based on lineage and gender identity.”

“Each citizen shall be provided with (a) Nepali citizenship certificate based on lineage of the mother or father along with gender identity,” it reads.

President Ram Baran Yadav on Sunday will preside over a ceremony to celebrate the constitution’s approval.

“It’s phenomenal that Nepal is embracing GSM (gender and sexual minority) citizens and started establishing our identity, rights and representations through the new constitution,” said Sunil Babu Pant, a gay lawmaker who founded the Blue Diamond Society, a Nepali LGBT advocacy group.

Ty Cobb of the Human Rights Campaign described approval of the new constitution as a “momentous step forward for LGBT equality in Nepal.”

“The nation’s leadership has affirmed that its LGBT citizens deserve the constitutional right to live their lives free from discrimination and fear,” said Cobb.

The constitution is the first one approved by lawmakers since they abolished the country’s monarchy in 2008.

South Africa and Ecuador are among the handful of other countries with constitutions that specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Nepal Supreme Court in 2007 ruled the country’s government must provide legal protections to LGBT citizens and amend laws that discriminated against them.

The same tribunal less than a year later ordered the formation of a committee to study the possibility of same-sex marriage in the South Asian country. The aforementioned body earlier this year recommended that Nepal’s government extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

The new constitution does not define marriage.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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