Nepal: Implement Supreme Court Ruling on Protecting the Rights of LGBTI Persons
December 21, 2017
On the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Sunil Babu Panton the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI), the ICJ calls on the Government of Nepal to fully implement the Court’s ruling.
In 2007, the Supreme Court of Nepal delivered a judgment in Sunil Babu Pant v. the Government of Nepal and others, directing the Government of Nepal to take necessary measures to ensure that people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations could fully enjoy their rights without discrimination. Such measures were to include the adoption of new laws or amending existing laws.
However, ten years after the judgment, LGBTI persons are denied equal protection of the law, and their rights are still not fully protected.
“The Supreme Court’s 2007 judgment gave hope to LGBTI people in Nepal and inspired judiciaries in the region and the world,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia Director.
“Despite some positive measures, the Government has much more work to do to implement the judgment and ensure that the rights of the LGBTI community in Nepal are fully respected.”
The Supreme Court based its findings on international human rights law and standards, particularly in respect of the right to non-discrimination and equality and the right to privacy. The Court relied in particular on Nepal’s legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Court strongly rejected arguments that a person’s LGBTI status was the result of “emotional and psychological disorders”, and found that the petitioners faced violence, stigmatization, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Court further ordered that a new Constitution under consideration by the Constituent Assembly should guarantee the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Since then, some steps have been taken. The 2015 Constitution that was ultimately adopted contains provisions guaranteeing the right to equality for all citizens and establishing special provisions for the protection, empowerment and advancement of gender and “sexual minorities”. Pursuant to a subsequent Supreme Court ruling, transgender men and women can now change their gender markers to “O” on official documents. However, to use “M” or “F”, they still face prohibitive and unclear restrictions. A recently tabled bill would also criminalize unnecessary medical interventions and provide some, though incomplete, protections to intersex children.
Despite these developments, discrimination against LGBTI people remains rampant in the labour market, in schools and in hospitals. LGBTI people are mistreated and sometimes disowned by their families and singled out for physical attack – often beaten, sexually assaulted and subjected to severe physical abuse. Recent revisions to the Civil Code (2017), effective from mid-August 2018, do not recognize equality before the law related to family life.
“These violations continue in the absence of a state strategy or political will to tackle them,” added Rawski. “The Government of Nepal should prioritize enacting reforms to ensure the protection of the rights of LGBTI persons.”
The ICJ calls on the Government of Nepal to fully implement all aspects of the 2007 ruling and subsequent Supreme Court rulings affecting LGBTI communities. This should include, at the minimum:
• Repealing all discriminatory laws, including provisions of the recently introduced Penal and Civil Codes, against sexual orientation and gender identity in line with the principle of equality, equal protection and non-discrimination;
• Enacting legislation that allows same-sex couples full equality before and protection of the law;
• Enacting legislation that removes any prohibitive or unclear restrictions to changing of gender markers on all official documents;
• Enacting legislation that establishes prior, free, full, informed, genuine and consistent consent, and prevents unnecessary medical interventions on intersex persons; and
• Ensuring that the legal protections are given practical effect, including through implementation measures and administrative instructions binding officials at all levels of government.