Nepal to host maiden international LGBT+ tourism conference

 Nepal will host its first LGBT+ tourism conference next month, aiming to position the Himalayan nation as a welcoming destination for sexual minorities on the global travel map.

The two-day conference, commencing on Jan. 18 in Kathmandu, follows a historic decision in November, making Nepal the first South Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Nepal is considered a champion and beacon of hope for LGBTI rights in South Asia. Now, it is ready for business,” Sunil Babu Pant, the first openly gay former parliamentarian in Asia and leading LGBTQ rights activist, told reporters on Wednesday.

“Nepal has long attracted trekkers and mountaineers. Now, it is time to attract LGBT+ tourists and create job opportunities. These (LGBT+ in Nepal) are the people who hardly get jobs abroad because of their distinct nature.”

Pant said the conference could serve as an opportunity to attract LGBT+ tourists and promote Nepal as a welcoming destination.

Nearly one million Nepalis seek employment abroad annually, particularly in countries like those in the Gulf Cooperation Council and Malaysia, where laws can be harsh for the LGBT+ community,

He said neighbouring India and China are huge market for Nepal’s LGBT+ tourism.

Studies show that China has the world’s largest LGBT+ population. Members of the community in China and India face social, cultural, and political discrimination, which may be why they remain a hidden sub-population.

The conference is supported by the World Bank, Nepal Tourism Board, IGLTA, an International LGBTQ+ Travel Association, ELTA (European LGBTQ+ Travel Alliance), and Nepal’s Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal.

“Hosting an event focused on LGBT+ tourism promotes inclusivity and diversity,” Nandini Lahe-Thapa, director of the Tourism Marketing and Promotion at Nepal Tourism Board, told EFE.

On Nov. 29, Surendra Pandey and Maya Gurung became the first same-sex couple in South Asian to have their marriage officially recognised, following a years-long process of legal wrangling.

Their legally recognised marriage in Nepal marks a milestone for gap couple rights in the Himalayan nation.

The LGBT+ workers generally face discrimination in the labour market, including pay disparities.

“We have been recognized by the government as citizens with equal rights. Now we hope that there will also be equality in job opportunities,” Pandey said

By Mian Saeed Ahmed Khan