Hundreds of members of Nepal’s gay community marched through Kathmandu on 8 August, many wearing vibrant costumes and carrying rainbow flags and balloons, in an annual pride parade.
The march is timed to coincide with the Hindu festival of Gai Jatra, which brings hundreds onto the streets to pay respects to those who have died in the past year.
Historically Gai Jatra, which dates back to when Nepal was under royal rule, was also a chance for people to criticise the government — with many people in colourful costumes satirising politicians.
In recent years the gay community has started using the festival to call attention to its demands for equal rights.
Around 1,500 people took part in the parade, paying tribute to members of LGBTI community who had died in 2017, including American artist Gilbert Baker who designed the rainbow flag that has become an emblem of the gay community.
“Every year we celebrate a pride festival to show that we want to be recognised in this society with our different identity, that we are a part of this society,” said Pinky Gurung, president of the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights organisation in Nepal.
Nepal has some of South Asia’s most progressive laws on homosexuality and transgender rights, but activists say members of the community continue to face discrimination and live in the shadows of society.
“The government has recognised us but should do more. People of third gender like us should be able to come out in the open, society should accept us,” said Kirti Gurung, a 21-year-old transgender woman.
Last month a transgender woman and her husband were issued a marriage certificate by a district office, a first in Nepal.
But the country’s laws are silent on same-sex or transgender marriages and the legality of the union is unclear.