Aug 07, 2007
News: Nepal Army Sacks Two Women Perceived to Be Lesbians
(Nepal) - Nepal’s army has stirred up a new controversy by sacking two women because they were flat-chested and accused of being lesbians. The two women, who do not want to be named, have told human rights groups that they were unfairly accused of being lesbians and sacked after being kept in solitary confinement in windowless cells for more than a month. Human rights activists say the dismissals show up the army’s continued disregard of human rights, intolerance towards the sexual minorities and widespread irregularities.
The older of the two women, a 22-year-old who comes from Kailali district in the remote far west region, joined the army four years ago. She was working as a physical training instructor at the Kharipati Training Centre in Bhaktapur, used to imprison political leaders during King Gyanendra's 15-month regime.
Wiry and with close-cropped hair and habitually dressed in trousers and shirt, she often outstripped her male colleagues during physical training courses, which she says, gave rise to whispers in the barracks that she was a transgender.
The campaign, she says, increased when one of the women in the camp made sexual advances, which she rejected.
Alarmed by the mounting vilification campaign, she says she tried to defend herself by complaining to the authorities about the irregularities prevailing in the barracks, like some of her female colleagues smuggling in men.
Her complaint she says triggered retaliation.
About three months ago, at near midnight, the male head of a night patrol burst into the room she shared with four other colleagues and accused her of having a lesbian relationship with a trainee, who was also found in the room.
Though one of the women present in the room tried to defend them by saying the trainee had been reading a book in their room when she fell asleep, both the instructor and the 21-year-old trainee were accused of being lesbians and having an immoral relationship in violation of army regulations.
Then both were kept in solitary confinement for 60 and 45 days respectively in a tiny cell that had no windows. They were not allowed to leave the cells or speak with anyone. They were also not allowed to contact their families.
They heard that the army had set up an inquiry committee to look into the immoral act allegation but they were never asked to appear before it and be allowed to defend themselves.
Finally, on July 17, they were both dismissed from service without being given any papers.
The army was reported as saying that the two women were sacked because they had been found to have committed a serious breach of discipline.
Initially, both the women wanted to challenge the sack decision but the younger developed cold feet since her brother is also in the army.
“They dismissed me simply on the basis of an allegation,” the trainer, who is fighting for reinstatement, told IANS. “They had no proof that I was doing anything in violation of regulations.
“On the other hand, I received a promotion during my four-year stint, which proves I was efficient.
“I was also physically examined twice during recruitment. Why didn't they reject me then as a transgender?'
The Blue Diamond Society, Nepal's only gay rights organisation, is trying to get the two women reinstated.
“Even if they were lesbians, Nepal’s constitution doesn’t allow discrimination in government jobs on the basis of sexual orientation,’ said Sunil Pant, president of BDS.
“It is disgusting that someone can be accused of being a lesbian or transgender just because she doesn’t have breasts,” he added.