The SCALE Initiative will soon be publishing an Evidence Review conducted by UNDP that identifies 14 tactics, strategies and approachesi that have been used to reform or mitigate the impact of punitive and discriminatory laws and policies on access to HIV services for people living with HIV and key populationsii.
Over the next few months, we are speaking to a number of national key population leaders and representatives from around the world to hear directly from them: what does law reform look like in your community at this moment in time? What methods are you using to make progress, and why? What lessons can we share with peers in other communities and countries?
This week, we are talking with Manisha Dhakal, Executive Director of Blue Diamond Society, Nepal.
Blue Diamond Society is led by and works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) people. We are fighting for legal gender recognition without need of medical proof, marriage equality laws and equal rights in representation. We are also fighting for a non-discriminatory workplace policy and violence-, harassment- and stigma-free school environments, public spaces and service settings.
I always hid myself and my identity because of my family. When they found out that I was associated with Blue Diamond Society, they did not allow me to go to the office and I was kept inside for three days. But I used that time to talk with my family and get them to understand the challenges that I face – and the challenges that my community and organization face. After these conversations, they started to become tolerant, and are now fully accepting. When we get the support of our families, we can contribute even more strongly to our activism. I always share my personal story and encourage others to share in as safe an environment as possible because I know our stories are incredibly powerful. And collectively they are the beginning of the change we need to see.
Evidence Review tactics included: Community mobilization of key populations and people living with HIV; Strategic litigation; Key population and/or civil society engagement with decision makers; Capacity building of rights holders; Media-based strategies; Direct action
Our specific tactics and approaches are: mobilization of communities, public interest litigation, building of strong coordination and allies with government institutions, policymakers and stakeholders and public events.
The public interest litigation (PIL) we filed for sought equal recognition and rights for same-sex couples, highlighting the need for legal reforms to ensure the protection and inclusion of all citizens. Before filing for PIL, we raised awareness and advocated for judiciary bodies, lawyers, civil society, media and other concerned stakeholders to get support for PIL. This helped us to obtain their support in the PIL process leading to the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage and beyond.
We also need to create support from the masses. Thus, we have been organizing public events to create strong visibility and solidarity. In all of these tactics, we mobilize the media.
The positive advances at the policy level are limited to paper commitments and are not effectively implemented. For example, constitutional mandates, court decisions and United Nations treaty bodies recommendations are on paper only and not always translated into reality. Thus, the life of our community has not changed as much as it should.
But one of the political party leaders tweeted negatively when the initial positive court decision on marriage equality came out, and I felt a “WOW” moment with the flood of comments criticizing this leader in social media from media personalities, civil society and leaders of different political parties. I feel that we carried out very effective awareness raising and have many supporters who support us in difficult situations. This public pressure can ultimately help turn commitments into reality.
I have to add though, the most recent delays in implementing the Supreme Court’s rulings have caused real harm and injustice to thousands of couples from LGBTIQ+ community across Nepal – who the Court said previously must be able to marry immediately. Couples from the LGBTIQ+ community across Nepal want to marry because they love each other and want to commit their lives together. Every day of delay is a day in which these couples are denied important protections they need to care for their families.
Before any initiation, we need to enhance the capacity of our community, empower our community and mobilize our community. The community should be at the center and at the forefront of all our work. Young community leaders are joining our movement too, not only at the central level, but also at the provincial and local levels, which is impressive. So, please, work together with young people and address their priorities and needs. We also need to work for social causes just as we did during the earthquake and the pandemic, and we regularly create awareness to save our planet. We need to work beyond LGBTIQ+ issues, and it would be helpful if we supported the issues of other marginalized communities, such as environmental justice.
For more information on Blue Diamond Society, visit their website: https://bds.org.np/
i. The full list of tactics, strategies and approaches as follows: Community mobilization of key populations and people living with HIV; Direct action; Building the evidence base through research and documentation; Legal and policy environment monitoring; Establishing coalition, networks, and alliances; Strategic litigation; Engaging with international and regional processes and bodies; Access to and provision of legal aid services; Key population and/or civil society engagement with decision-makers; Use of information and communication technology; Media-based strategies; Enforcing protective laws; Training and sensitization of duty bearers; Capacity building of rights holders.
ii. UNAIDS considers gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs and prisoners and other incarcerated people as the five main key population groups that are particularly vulnerable to HIV and frequently lack adequate access to services.