India and Nepal are the only Hindu majority countries in the world. The majority of people in each share the same religion, culture and even languages which have Sanskrit as their origin. Nepal’s first king, Prithivi Narayan Shah, who unified the country we see today, is surprisingly not of Nepali origin, but actually a Rajput. The integration of Nepal was followed by the imposition of one language, one religion, and even one type of festival (Dusshera and Diwali). Hinduism was made a national religion that came with coercion and forceful imposition widely upon the kiratis (nature worshippers), tamangs (Buddhists) and other non-Hindu communities.
Shah, a Rajput descendant, had a large influence over Nepali society after the unification. A similar type of caste, class, and feudal system of India was also practiced in Nepal, and still is. And the same goes for both countries’ attitudes towards heteronormativity.
Nepal never had a ‘gift’ called Section 377 from the British like India does, but due to the conservative character of Nepali society under religious influence, social constructs have taken such a shape that they give very limited space for those outside the binaries. The non-acceptance of homosexuality in the Nepali society is also prevalent in the bigger cities. It is one of the only countries in the Asian region to provide LGBTQ people legislative protection against discrimination, and it recognises LGBTQ rights as fundamental rights . But unlike the legal reform, there hasn’t been a significant social reform.
The continuing hatred for and the rejection of the community has been the main barrier to living life with full dignity and respect for the country’s gender non-conforming population. Technically, anticipating the mood of the society, nobody will have the courage to come out of the closet. But there are strong individuals who are unapologetic and have come out, full confidence, bringing a lot of positive vibes with them.
Lex Limbu, a UK-based Nepali blogger, is a perfect example of such an individual. He has come out through a short emotional video, where he says what it’s like to take the shame foisted upon a gay person by the society, and shaping it into a strength. Further, his mother adds how important it is for the parents of LGBTQ individuals to support their children.
Lex Limbu belongs to the Kirati community which is one of the most significant minorities in Sikkim and Darjeeling. The chief minister of Sikkim, Dr Pawan Chamling, also belongs to the same community. The coming out of Lex Limbu is significant to the Himalayan population because the information in the matters of LGBTQ people are mostly unavailable, or in some of the cases, people are unaware of these terms. The second reason is that many Indian Gorkhas across Sikkim, North Bengal (Darjeeling, and Dooars), Assam, as well as across India, might recognise themselves (or someone close to them) in Limbu, and connect with his journey. The story of Lex can inspire many others in bringing the real change!
It is very important that our societies undergo a social change which comes through social development. A kind of social development which is more about understanding human behavior, respecting people’s existence, and accepting and celebrating differences.