First gay sports fest shows changing Nepal attitudes

Published: October 15, 2012

(Reuters) – Clad in pink, blue and yellow clothes, more than 250 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes took part in a sports festival in the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, at the weekend, billed by organizers as the first in South Asia.

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 that showed how attitudes are changing, albeit slowly, in the conservative, Hindu-majority nation.

The athletes were accompanied by masked dancers and Panche baja — musicians playing Nepal’s traditional instruments including pipes and drums.

"After I participated in the tournament, my confidence has increased," said 29-year-old Bakti Shah, who took part in football and athletics.

American Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis, on a visit to Nepal to support the rights of sexual minorities, kicked off the event at a football match, wearing a Nepali cloth cap and cream-colored Buddhist prayer scarf.

"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.

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