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Nepal: First gay sports festival held in Kathmandu

Gay athletes compete to fight homophobia in conservative Nepal

Some 250 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes competed in a sports festival in Kathmandu over the weekend in an effort to fight homophobia in the conservative Hindu nation.

"About 1,500 spectators cheered as the athletes, waving rainbow colored flags, marched at the Dasharath Stadium in the heart of Kathmandu in the opening ceremony of the three-day event," India's DNA newspaper reported.

American Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis kicked off the event at a football match, wearing a Nepali cloth cap and cream-coloured Buddhist prayer scarf, the paper said.

"Initially I was a little worried whether we will be able to hold such a big event in a major public venue," said well-known activist Sunil Babu Pant, founder of the Blue Diamond Society, a leading gay rights group.

As GlobalPost reported in November last year, Nepal's LGBT community still faces many difficulties gaining acceptance. But the country's 10-year-long civil war, which created space for minority groups in the proportional-representation-based government created by the peace deal, has resulted in some halting progress. Among the shortlist: There's a strong move to legalize gay marriage in the country's new constitution -- if the battling factions can ever reach a consensus on other issues.

Sunil Babu Pant, head of Nepal's Blue Diamond Society, a former member of parliament, and the organizer of this weekend's sports fest, is in the vanguard of the struggle.

"Nepal is going through tremendous transformation — politically, socially, economically, legally — so a lot of communities who had no space or voice before have emerged," Pant told GlobalPost in 2011.

"Personal attitudes in the conservative society are slowly changing. It is a good thing," Pant told DNA after the festival. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/india/nepal-gay-sports-festival