KATMANDU, Nepal — Hundreds of Nepal’s LGBT citizens are parading through Nepal’s capital to celebrate Gaijatra, a Hindu festival gleefully overtaken each year by the country’s gay community and cheered by onlookers.
Thousands of Nepalese lined the cobblestoned streets of Katmandu’s old city Monday to catch a glimpse of those parading, some carrying banners or rainbow-colored balloons, others tooting horns and ringing chimes.
In the socially conservative Hindu-majority nation, the festival was traditionally the only day people felt free to cross-dress. But norms are changing fast as this fledgling Himalayan democracy emerges from centuries of religious monarchy.
A government committee is recommending same-sex marriage be guaranteed in a new constitution, giving gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt, buy joint property, open joint bank accounts and inherit from one another.
All of the country’s political parties have already backed the idea. Many within the country’s small gay community hope this means the legislation can be passed with a new constitution by the end of the year.
“When we gather again next year, we hope we are able celebrate the new law,” said 28-year-old Bipin Lamichane, who wants to marry the partner he has lived with for five years. But changing laws, he said, may be easier than changing minds in a country where arranged marriage is still the norm, and up to a decade ago homosexuals were routinely jailed for up to three months on accusations of “unnatural sex.”
“Sometimes even if we get laws in writing, there is a big problem of implementation,” Lamichane said. “There is still more that needs done.”
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