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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Crossing sexual boundaries in Nepal

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

"When I was about 13, it came from my heart and soul, the feeling that I was different from others," says Manisha, who has the body of a man but wants to be a woman - and likes to be described as a woman.

Manisha, now 24, is what is known in Kathmandu as a "meti" or a transgender person.

"Up to the age of 18 I thought I was the only person like that in the world. I was very depressed."

That changed when Manisha began meeting similar people in the parks of the Nepalese capital.

It changed even more in 2001 with the founding of the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal's only organisation for sexual minorities.

The BDS has just launched a weekly newspaper, with editions in English and Nepali.

The Blue Diamond Weekly will give a platform to many marginalised groups in Nepal, but seems likely to be dominated by issues affecting gay and bisexual Nepalese and the significant number who call themselves "meti" and dress up in women's clothes.

An autobiographical article by Manisha filled page three of the first edition.

Manisha now works full-time for BDS, which among other things promotes Aids awareness and condom usage among vulnerable groups.

BDS's founder and director, 32-year-old Sunil Pant, explored his own sexuality while studying in Belarus.


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