Organizer of pride parade receives assaults and threats

On 29 June 2019, the Queer Youth Group (QYG) and the Queer Rights Collective (QRC) organized a Pride Parade. The Pride Parade was open to all people across the gender and sexuality spectrum and an open call for invitation was posted on social media platforms.

A knock of threat prior to the pride parade

On the same day, one of the organizers, Rukshana Kapali, was added by Roli Shrestha to a Facebook group chat called “Kinnar Big Boss,” which had more than 50 members. Since she was added by a person who wasn’t friends with her, it went into the filtered messages. Consequently, before she could click on accept or decline, she saw a long scroll of messages targeting her.

The conversations sent prior to  Rukshana’s addition to the group was also accessible. In the group chat, Roli Shrestha, Zoya Gurung, Nirja Lama, Artisha Rana and many other people with aliases, and  anonymous accounts verbally assaulted Rukshana. 

The written and recorded voice messages were a direct attack on her. The messages were racist, sexist, xenophobic, transphobic and ignorant in their content. Every voice message contained vulgar terms such as “randi” and the term “hijada” used in a degrading tone.  Further abuses were directed at her based on her gender identity. Not just that, the messages were also blatantly body-shaming and slut-shaming. Rukshana was repeatedly attacked on the basis of her ethnicity and her native language, the latter being a theme throughout the chat. She was furthermore accused of defaming the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) by organizing the Pride Parade.

Rukshana screenshotted the messages and also screen recorded the voice messages and called out the abusers  in public, on social media. Soon after, Zoya Gurung sent a private message to Rukshana. She tried to appear as if she was apologising, but concealed the apology with more emotionally abusive language and veiled threats. She emotionally abused Rukshana using terms such as “past life,” and deliberately attempted to shrug off the conversation and put the burden of reconciliation on Rukshana, asking her to attend a meeting at BDS where all “metis” would be present. Zoya even tried to justify her and the Facebook group’s actions by saying it was driven by “anger.”

Moreover, the president of the Blue Diamond Society, Pinky Gurung, was also present in the group chat. She neither criticized the messages, nor did she attempt to stop the verbal assault. In the messages, she appears at the beginning where she mentions that the Pride Parade was organized by “rucsana haru le queer group ko gareko” and again in the middle where she answers a question by saying “i am transgender attract with any gender vanxa”.

The verbal assaults were witnessed by the President of the Blue Diamond Society and also conducted by people working for or affiliated with BDS. As an organization working in the sector of human rights, it is appalling that individuals associated with a human rights organization violated  another individual’s human rights through means of online bullying, abuses, and threats; the contents of which discriminated on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, native language, and physical appearance. Despite the ability to do so, the President did not attempt to redress, clarify, or prevent these abuses directed at an individual identifying as a fellow sexual and gender minority.

In the chat group, a constant accusation was raised that the organization and the execution of the Pride Parade was in effect “defaming Blue Diamond Society”. With regards to the Pride Parade, emails of invitation were sent to three people working at BDS including the Executive Director and two people working for the Federation of Gender and Sexual Minorities. As per QYG and QRC agreement, no one received a special invitation for the Pride Parade, no specific leader was appointed for the event, and no talk of belittling any other organization had taken place.  

Despite the email invitation to BDS, Rukshana was accused that no one at the Blue Diamond Society was informed about the Pride Parade a sentiment further related to Raji Manjari (also a QRC member) during a phone conversation by Peter, a BDS employee. In an interview with the Kathmandu Post, the President of the Blue Diamond Society was even quoted as saying: “Gurung will not attend Saturday’s pride parade. ‘The event hasn’t been discussed with us, so we aren’t sure of their plans. I will probably be out of the Valley,’”. Claiming that BDS was completely unaware about the event is a false statement. In the group chat, a message was constantly put up that the Pride Parade was organized without the consent of the Blue Diamond Society. No citizen in this country needs consent from anyone else to organize an event. Every Nepali citizen is entitled to organize an event on their own terms while staying within the limits of the law in the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. No queer person requires consent of any particular organization or individual to organize any event. Nor should any organization or individual feel entitled to provide “permission” for organizing any such event. And QRC is in no way obliged to provide any justification in organizing any event.

The other basis of the attack has been the thought that BDS should have been involved in the process of organizing the Pride Parade, whereas it was not. As visible on many public media narratives, the Blue Diamond Society has never been interested in celebrating a pride parade on Pride Month and has indicated that the organization would rather celebrate it on Gai Jatra. The same line of thought was presented in the aforementioned Kathmandu Post article, which cites an  article of Sunil Babu Panta, the founder of Blue Diamond Society, suggesting that he does not want to have a seperate pride parade. And although Sunil Pant is no longer leading BDS and, while it is also Blue Diamond Society’s choice when they want to organize a pride parade or whether or not they would like to call it a “pride parade”, this cannot be the justification to dismiss anyone else from organizing a pride parade if they wish to do so. No individual, group, or organization holds proprietary rights to organizing a pride parade. Based on previous comments by senior management of BDS, one can even beg the question: would Blue Diamond Society even be interested in organizing a Pride Parade during International Pride Month, even if they were asked to be a part of it? 

Another major misunderstanding is the accusation that by organizing a separate Pride Parade “BDS has been defamed,” or such events are “spreading bad rumors about BDS.” The reasoning for this stance may stem from the false belief that BDS needs to sanction and permit any and all events related to queer activism in Nepal, and any event not doing so is in effect “defaming BDS”. 

The fundamental ideology of the Blue Diamond Society is not the same as other queer rights organizations in Nepal particularly ours, the Queer Rights Collective . We understand that the Blue Diamond Society holds it own philosophy about gender and sexuality, but the act of not aligning with BDS’s philosophy does not equate to the defamation of  the Blue Diamond Society.

The Blue Diamond Society needs to understand that philosophical and ideological stances are not permanent and such ideas change with time through actions, discourses, and criticisms.  In the group chat, Rukshana has been blatantly shamed for identifying as a transgender woman, rather than a third gender person. In the group chat, screenshots of anonymous pages that did not espouse to the thinking of BDS were shared and it was insinuated that QRC created all of those pages. There is no basis that QRC created all of those pages. Similarly, we have seen and felt resistance from BDS not only towards transgender people who do not identify as third gender, but also transmen who identify as male and transwomen who identify as female. Everyone needs to have full agency over how they want to identify themselves and their gender and sexual identities, otherwise it is a violation of their human rights.

The group chat messages also reflected a certain ignorance and lack of knowledge, or perhaps even the  reluctance or willingness to understand and embrace the diversity of gender and sexuality. There was a disregard of queerness, binary identifying transgender people, and gender fluidity. The idea that gender identity and sexual orientations are different spectrums, and trans people can have diverse sexual orientations was also highly stigmatized. It is the choice of individuals not to educate themselves on this matter, but any organization advocating for sexual and gender minorities should keep abreast of contemporary developments in global LGBTIQ+ movements.

QRC believes that our own spaces need to be safer as we demand and create safer spaces at larger. The narrative that we, the LGBTIQ+ have to show a united front in the face of the larger society and not talk about abusive behaviour, not take responsibility that they are taking place within organizations will not make our work sustainable.  We are part of the society and as much as we challenge the system to look at their patriarchal practices and its disproportionate harm on marginalized communities, our own practices need to be evaluated, critiqued and transformed. 

Meeting with senior management of Blue Diamond Society

We had choosen to have a talk and resolve the issue rather than going to file a case. However, in the conversation with Blue Diamond Society, they denied any “official” affiliation of the abusers with the organization. A statement paper was taken, with all the details above and a final paragraph that says :

“We are not taking this matter to the jurisdiction with an expectation that it will be solved through mutual understanding. First, the Blue Diamond Society should officially apologise for the abuse directed at Rukshana Kapali and agree that they will never interfere in the internal affairs of other queer rights groups and organizations. After an official apology letter has been released by BDS, then will QRC  agree to take down the videos that have been posted calling out the abusers. On completion of both terms, both parties will have agreed that the issue has been resolved and the abusers should never attempt to contact QRC or its members from thenceforth. This agreement document shall be shared in our circles, but any identifying names mentioned in the document shall be redacted.”

Despite BDS tried to shrug off any ownership to the issue by stating that the abusers are not officially affiliated to them, or are their staffs, the BDS network does not work that way. Thousands of people are in the network of affiliation in an informal way, and BDS as institution has power navigation to all of them. Moreover, BDS does appropriate any queer individual as a part of their organization in different meetings and conferences despite not having an official affiliation.

Moreover the anger was coming from the fact that this pride parade challenged the ideological principles of Blue Diamond Society. Not aligning to the Gai Jatra narrative or any binary identifying transgender people coming out as transmen and transwomen (not ‘third genders’) were some of the important points that were hit on. We as QYG and QRC respect, acknowledge and include people who identify as ‘third genders’ and at the same time also respect, acknowledge and include people who identify as binary transmen and transwomen.

The discussion got toned-down just so.

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