The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, which is part of the Nepalese government, must stop anti-gay violence by its cadres and renounce anti-gay rhetoric, says Human Rights Watch in a letter to the country’s lawmakers.

In the most recent known example of discriminatory attacks, on March 2 Maoist soldiers detained a woman and a teenage girl accused of having a sexual relationship and tried to force them to become Maoist soldiers.

Human Rights Watch said the kidnapping shows the need for all parties in Nepal to endorse protections for full equality, including for lesbians and gays, in the new constitution to be drafted later this year. On November 21, 2006, an agreement between Nepal’s coalition government and the Maoists ended 10 years of fighting. Since signing the peace accord, the Maoists have joined the interim government.

“As Nepal tries to recover from a decade of conflict, its leaders should make it clear that no one’s rights are disposable,” said Jessica Stern, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Abusing women for their sexuality and forcibly recruiting children are simply unacceptable in a new Nepal.”

In the March 2 incident, Maoists detained a 16-year-old girl and a 20-year-old woman, Sarita C., on suspicion that they had a sexual relationship. The two were on their way to a celebration of the annual Hindu Holi festival in Pankali village in Sunsari district that had been organized by the Human Welfare Society, a Nepali non-governmental organization working on issues of HIV/AIDS and human rights.

According to the Blue Diamond Society, another Nepali group working in the field of health, sexual rights and HIV prevention, the two were held for eight hours at the Maoist camp in Singiya village in Sunsari. They were intensively interrogated about whether they were homosexuals, and informed by a Maoist cadre that they would have to “undergo a blood test to check if they were lesbians.” Officials from the Human Welfare Society were also summoned to the Maoist camp and subjected to interrogation.

The girl’s family had used violence on several occasions against the couple and had demanded that the Maoists take action against them. In late 2006, the girl and woman were abducted and held in a Maoist camp at Lochani village in Morang District. At the camp, the Maoists called the alleged couple derogatory names for homosexuals including “chakka” and “hijara” and ordered them to join the Maoists as soldiers because it would lead them to the “straight life.” When they refused to carry weapons, they were deprived of food and beaten almost daily. After one month, they managed to escape.

“The Maoists have to show their troops respect the law and the rights of all Nepalis, especially now they’re in government,” Stern said. “Maoist leaders should act swiftly to condemn abuses, and support a new constitution that protects everyone from discrimination, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”

These attacks stand in stark contrast with recent commitments made by Hisila Yami, a Maoist member of parliament and the Minister for Infrastructure in Nepal’s interim government. In January 2007, at a program organized by the Blue Diamond Society, Yami stated that the party had recently adopted a policy “not to encourage homosexual behavior but not punish homosexuals either.”

However, other recent statements by Maoist leaders have painted a different picture. In December 2006, Maoist senior leader and Minister of Local Development Dev Gurung said publicly that: “Under Soviet rule and when China was still very much a communist state, there were no homosexuals in the Soviet Union or China … Homosexuality is a production of capitalism. Under socialism this kind of problem doesn’t exist.”

As part of Maoists’ campaign against so-called “social pollutants,” Maoist cadres have also targeted suspected homosexuals. In December 2006, Maoists in Kathmandu ordered homeowners not to rent rooms to gays or lesbians. Amrita Thapa, general secretary of the Maoist women’s association, told participants at a national conference in March 2006 that homosexuals were unnatural and were “polluting” society.

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