Landmark Report Highlights Persistent Challenges Faced by LGBT Community in Nepal

Kathmandu (24 November 2014) - While Nepal is often cited as a
progressive country in terms of equal rights for sexual and gender
minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in
the country continue to face a wide range of obstacles as individuals
and as a community, according to a new comprehensive report released

The 'Being LGBT in Asia' country report produced by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF) and the United States Agency for International Development
(USAID) reports widespread bullying in schools and a lack of
protection from discrimination by employers. Other challenges include
limited programming to address reproductive health needs of lesbians
and the lack of sensitive HIV healthcare for transgender women and gay
men who are at higher risk of HIV infection than the general

"All people deserve to be treated with dignity no matter who they are
or who they love. And so it's especially pleasing to be in a country
where citizens have led an important movement to bring about historic,
meaningful, lasting change," said USAID Mission Director Beth Dunford.

The report also notes that despite a Supreme Court verdict in 2007 to
protect the rights of these minorities, an anti-discrimination law to
protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI)
people has not been enacted nor has same-sex marriage been legalized
as ordered by court.

"As part of the 'Being LBGT in Asia' initiative, the Nepal Country
Report is important; not only will it help in creating a common
understanding, but also in setting the priorities for the future,"
said Nepal United Nations Development Programme Resident
Representative Jamie McGoldrick.

'Being LGBT in Asia: Nepal Country Report' calls on the Government of
Nepal and Nepali society to accept the existence of LGBT individuals
as an integral and contributing part of society. It calls on all
stakeholders to respect and protect the rights of LGBT people through
existing national and international human rights mechanisms and
through additional laws and policies as needed.

"Guaranteed LGBTI rights are fundamental for us because it is a matter
of being able to live a dignified life free of fear. It also is about
the future of LGBT children and youth in coming generations. We are
merely demanding equal rights and are not asking for special
privileges," said Manisha Dhakal, acting Executive Director of Blue
Diamond Society, a prominent civil society organization that has been
promoting LGBT human rights and access to HIV healthcare since 2001.

This report, part of the broader regional 'Being LGBT in Asia'
initiative, aims to provide an overview of the legal and social
environment for LGBT people and organizations in Nepal. It provides a
review of LGBT rights as related broadly to human rights conventions
and laws, the legal environment, the socio-cultural environment and
religion; and more specifically to education, employment, family
affairs, health, media, political affairs and the capacity of LGBT
organizations. The report is a joint collaboration between UNDP, USAID
and leading LGBT civil society groups and is based on information
gathered during the "'Being LGBT in Asia" Nepal National LGBTI
Community Dialogue held in April 2014 in Kathmandu as well as other
field work and reviews.

Download the English and Nepali reports here:

For more information, kindly contact:

Bharat Man Shrestha (

LGBT Human Rights, HIV and Law Officer, UNDP Nepal I Phone:
+977-1-5523200 Ext. 1717/ Mobile: +977-98033-62518

The Basis of Indigenous Spirituality [Meeting Rivers Series - 48]

The Basis of Indigenous Spirituality

By Yangkahao Vashum*

The belief that God is everywhere and knows everything is the basis of
indigenous people's spirituality. Spirituality originates from the
Spirit of God. Spirituality for the indigenous people is a way of
living in the constant consciousness of the presence of God. It has to
do with the way they live, act, and relate with God, fellow human
being and the whole of God's creation.

Indigenous peoples' spirituality emphasizes on the wholeness of life
and interconnectedness of all. It is basically a spirituality of
relationship; our connectedness to one another and the whole of God's
creation and the spirit world. Tribal worldview makes no distinction
between what is the spiritual and physical, material and immaterial,
sacred and secular; heavenly and earthly, etc.

Honesty, sincerity, speaking the truth and dignity of labor are all
important spiritual values of the people. Hospitality, communitarian
spirit and respect for one another are the hallmarks of tribal people.
They practically lived out these values in their life.

Theirs is a spirituality that is centered on community, social justice
and peace. They lived and worked for maintaining balance and harmony
in the community as well as for the whole of creation.

Indigenous peoples' worldview can be described as the recognition of
the undifferentiated unity of all things, meaning, there is no
distinction drawn between the spiritual and physical, material and
immaterial, sacred and profane, and spiritual and earthly. Nor does
an indigenous worldview recognize any structure of hierarchy in
creation. They see the world and all its surroundings in holistic
perspective. While a Western worldview is essentially anthropocentric,
an indigenous worldview is creation-centered and is characterized by
understanding the interdependence and the interrelatedness of all
creation, including human beings. Therefore, indigenous peoples across
the world that I know believe that the whole of creation are our
relatives. The Lakota nation of American Indians has an expression
which describes beautifully all that concerns the Indigenous
worldview, "We are all related."

Leroy Little Bear observes that the indigenous "paradigm is comprised
of and includes ideas of constant motion and flux, existence
consisting of energy waves, interrelationships, all things being
animate, space/place, renewal, and all things being imbued with

As noted above, indigenous "peoples do not differentiate their world
of experience into two realms that oppose or complement each other.
They seem to maintain a consistent understanding of the unity of all
experience."2 Referring to Naga religious view, J. H. Thumra asserts
that "unlike many modern Christian belief in the dichotomy of the
'sacred' and the 'secular' or the 'spiritual' and the 'material', the
traditional Naga religion does not have such a dichotomy. For them
the 'sacred' and the 'secular' are one."3 In "An Emerging Asian
Theology: Tribal Theology," Wati Longchar makes a useful comparison
between dominant Christian worldview and traditional Tribal worldview
in which he underscores their differences.4 Indigenous peoples around
the world view reality in its wholeness and perceive life as one
single web and many smaller webs of relationships which is the
antithesis of the dominant Christian dualistic and individualistic
views. Further, their cultural and religious values are governed by
respect for one another and reciprocity is the norm for their
day-to-day interactions.

The well-being of all creation including that of human beings depends
upon preserving and restoring the harmonious interrelationships of all
creation. All living creatures including humans are meant to work
toward maintaining balance and harmony and these are to be seen as the
ultimate concern of all beings. Indigenous peoples do not believe in
the superiority of humans over against the rest of creation.

Indeed, indigenous people consider animals, other living creatures,
and all created as "'people' in the same manner as the various tribes
of human beings are people."5 Indigenous peoples claim they have
reciprocal relationships with all living things, which includes the
so-called "inanimate" objects such as rocks, plants, and other natural
forms.6 Everything is imbued with spirit so all is sacred for
Indigenous peoples. Because all creation is sacred the very land we
walk and till must be treated with respect and reverence. Therefore,
they treat life and creation with respect and reverence. One reason
land is sacred for Indigenous peoples is that it is the dwelling place
of the spirits; the ancestors have lived and worked the same land and
they take their final rest and their bones becomes the land.7

Indigenous worldview is further characterized by being spatially
oriented rather than temporally focused as is of the Euro-American
worldview. This worldview of spatiality essentially accentuates and
locates the all important life qualities of relationships among and
between human beings and the whole of creation. This understanding
extends and embraces the way Indigenous peoples view the world and
relate themselves to the spirits and God(s). In "Full Circle of
Liberation: An American Theology of Place," George E. Tinker argues
that the traditional Christian Euro-centric notion of God's action in
time, which incidentally, is also embraced by Black theologians and
Latin American theologians, is not how American Indians could
understand a relation to God. God acts in space and in place. Tinker
explains, "God reveals God's self in creation, in space or place, not
in time."8 For Tinker and other Indigenous thinkers, the traditional
linear thinking of temporality that is fundamental to the Western
intellectual tradition is quite alien to Indigenous peoples and is in
fact destructive to their livelihood.

Space-creation centered spirituality calls for critical reevaluation
of our ways of life, our Christian spirituality and our attitude
towards all God's creation. The ecological crisis which we are
confronted today is primarily a spiritual crisis. Looking from the
indigenous people's holistic view of life, there is no separation
between what is physical and spiritual, matter and spirit and
everything including human, spirits and the rest of creation are
interrelated and interconnected. For the indigenous people
spirituality is therefore a way of life; our living style, habit and
the way we conduct and relate with other fellow human beings and
creation are all integral part of their spirituality.


1 Leroy Little Bear, "Foreward", in Gregory Cajete, Native Science. x.

2 Deloria, Spirit and Reason. 354.

3 Jonathan H. Thumra, "The Naga Primal (Traditional) Religion and
Christianity: A Theological Reflection," in V. K. Nuh, ed. In Search
of Praxis Theology for the Nagas (New Delhi: Regency Publications,
2003), 54.

4 For a detailed comparison see A. Wati Longchar, An Emerging Asian
Theology: Tribal Theology: Issue, Method and Perspective (Jorhat:
Tribal Study Center, 2000), 64.

5 Vine Deloria, Jr, God is Red: A Native View of Religion. 2d
ed.(Golden: North American Press, 1992), 89.

6 Walking Buffalo articulates this truth: "Did you know that trees
talk? Well they do. They talk to each other, and they'll talk to you
if you listen. Trouble is, White people don't listen. They never
learned to listen to the Indians, so I don't I suppose they'll listen
to other voices in nature. But I have learned a lot from trees:
sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about
the Great Spirit." Quoted in Deloria. Ibid. 90.

7 M. Horam, Nagas Old Ways New Trends (Delhi: Cosmos Publications, 1988), 15f.

8 George E. Tinker, "The Full Circle of Liberation: An American
Theology of Place," in David G. Hallman, ed., Ecotheology: Voices from
South and North (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1994), 221; Spirit and
Resistance, 91-92.

*Rev. Dr. Yangkahao Vashum is Associate Professor of Systematic
Theology and Tribal Theology at the Eastern Theological College,
Jorhat, Assam, India. He is also Dean of the Post-Graduate Studies of
the College. His email id:

Time Is Now for Vietnam to Join the International Criminal Court

Global Coalition calls on Vietnam to take the regional lead on international justice


Bangkok/New York/The HagueVietnam should act in accordance with its stated commitment to international justice and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Coalition for the ICC said today.


In a letter dated 6 November to Vietnamese President Trương Tấn Sang, the Coalition recognized Vietnam's openness towards the ICC and called on the government of Vietnam to carry the progress it has made so far to its logical conclusion by ratifying the Rome Statute at the earliest possible date.


"The government of Vietnam has displayed a positive and open attitude towards the ICC and a commitment to international justice," said Amielle del Rosario, the Coalition's Asia-Pacific regional coordinator. "Vietnam was involved in the process that gave birth to the court and has been seriously considering and making progress towards ratification for nearly a decade—now is the time to join the Court."


In its United Nations Universal Periodic Review in 2010 and 2014, it accepted numerous recommendations to consider ratifying the Rome Statute. In 2012, Vietnam signed an agreement with the European Union that recognized the importance of the ICC and included a commitment to considering joining the Court. Vietnam's Ministry of Justice has also hosted two workshops on the ICC in order to build an understanding of the Court and learn from other Asian countries' experiences.


The letter emphasized that while these initial steps were positive, Vietnam should now sign and ratify the Rome Statute after nearly a decade of studying the treaty. By ratifying, Vietnam would gain recognition for the great strides it has made in its broader effort to bring domestic judicial legislation in line with international standards. The letter noted that incongruities between Vietnamese law and the Rome Statute are relatively limited—Vietnam's penal code already provides for crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and the crime of aggression to some extent—and that there are few obstacles in the way of Vietnam's ratification.


By ratifying the Rome Statute, Vietnam would establish itself as an important player in international justice, becoming only the fourth Southeast Asian state to join the ICC.


"Due to its tumultuous history, Vietnam has a deep understanding of the importance of ending impunity for grave crimes and can set an example for other states in the region by joining the ICC," said, Sunil Pal, director of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA). "In doing so, Vietnam would not only help strengthen a growing international system of justice already endorsed by most of the world, but also gain a stake in its operation."


Cambodia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines are the only states from Southeast Asia that have ratified the Rome Statute.


Accession to the Rome Statute would allow Vietnam to participate as a state party in the sessions of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) and shape the future of international criminal justice by participating in all negotiations and decisions of the ASP, including making proposals on any amendments to the Rome Statute.



BACKGROUND: The ICC is the world's first permanent international court to have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Central to the Court's mandate is the principle of complementarity, which holds that the Court will only intervene if national legal systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.


There are currently nine active investigations before the Court: the Central African Republic I & II; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; Kenya; Libya; Uganda; Côte d'Ivoire and Mali. The ICC has publicly issued 31 arrest warrants and nine summonses to appear. Two trials are ongoing. The Office of the Prosecutor has made public that it is examining nine situations on four continents, including Afghanistan, Colombia; the registered vessels of the Comoros, Greece and Cambodia; Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Iraq (examination re-opened in 2014), Nigeria and Ukraine. The Office of the Prosecutor has concluded preliminary examinations relating to Iraq, Venezuela, Palestine and the Republic of Korea, declining in each case to open an investigation.


The Coalition for the International Criminal Court is a global network of civil society organizations in over 150 countries working in partnership to strengthen international cooperation with the ICC; ensure that the Court is fair, effective and independent; make justice both visible and universal; and advance stronger national laws that deliver justice to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.


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