Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mountain Kingdom of Nepal Unites Gay British Indian Muslim and Indian Hindu in Marriage

Sunil Babu Pant, Founder of BDS, with Winston Wilde (2009)

They met in Mumbai, fell in love and sought to marry. However, there were several obstacles in the way. The 42-year-old, a social worker of Indian origin from the UK, and his 30-year-old love, a sales executive from Ahmedabad, belong to different religions. One is a Hindu and the other a Muslim. Also, both are men.

Fearing an outcry in conservative Gujarat, they packed their bags and drove from Surat to Kathmandu last week. On Tuesday, the couple will wed in a Hindu temple in Kathmandu under the aegis of Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal’s first gay rights organisation that campaigned successfully for same-sex marriages and has now won fame for the former Himalayan kingdom as a haven for same-sex lovers.

“We read on the Internet that Nepal’s Supreme Court has approved of same-sex marriages,” said the 30-year-old, identified only as S Khan. “Since they are still not legal in India, we decided to come to Nepal to get married.”

Khan said he and his partner came to know about BDS last year when Indian papers carried the news about BDS founder and Nepal’s first openly gay MP Sunil Babu Pant opening a travel agency, Pink Mountain, to help gays and lesbians travel to Nepal to get married or honeymoon. After an exchange of vows, rings and garlands Tuesday evening, the pair will be issued a certificate by BDS declaring them man and wife.

“Though Nepal’s apex court has approved same sex marriages and instructed the government to enact laws in accordance, the actual laws are yet to be formulated,” Pant told TNN. “We were hoping the new constitution would be promulgated in May and legally validate same-sex marriages. (Since the constitution was not ready by May) we hope the marriage laws will now be ready when the constitution comes into effect in May 2011.”

As Khan is planning to join his partner in the UK, Pant advised them to consult the British Embassy in Kathmandu. The embassy, though sympathetic, however pointed out that they could have helped had Khan been a Nepali instead of Indian. Accordingly, they asked the pair to get a certificate from BDS and seek the help of the British Embassy in New Delhi.

Pant, who has begun a weekly television show, is upbeat. “We have two more weddings scheduled in 2011, celebrated as tourism year in Nepal,” he says. “An American lesbian couple and a Filipino-Arab couple have already confirmed.” From the $200 charged by BDS to issue the wedding certificates, Pant hopes to generate funds for training sexual minorities in Nepal. BDS, in collaboration with several western donors, provides beauticians’ and tailoring training to gays. Pant and BDS have also offered to host a spectacular wedding in Nepal for Manvendra Singh Gohil, the only openly gay scion of an erstwhile royal family in Rajpipla in Gujarat.


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