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15 Oct 2008

A sexy first in Nepal

The Blue Diamond Society in Nepal breaks new ground in LGBT publishing. Doug Sanders, fresh from a BDS conference, reports on an unique tabloid designed to deliver LGBTI news to an mainstream audience.

How to get the LGBTI message across?

The Blue Diamond Society (BDS) in Nepal published its own newsletter. Maybe members liked it. But it was not getting the message across to the wider public. What to do?

Nepali English language newspapers love Hollywood celebrity gossip. They regularly cover hot news about Britney and Madonna. Lesson number one: this is how you sell newspapers in Nepal.

The second lesson was world famous in countries with strong ties to Britain. Go to www.page3.com and you will see photos of lovely ladies, too naked to appear in Singapore's Straits Times, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post or Nepali newspapers. The photos, on the notorious PAGE 3, made The Sun, a London tabloid, one of the most profitable newspapers on the planet.

Learning these lessons, Subash Pokharel, working with the Blue Diamond Society, started a new English-language weekly entertainment tabloid for Nepal. It's called PAGE 6. Apparently everyone in Nepal gets the meaning of the title - though it had to be explained to me. The first issue was launched in August, 2007.

Above: Sunil Pant, founder of the Blue Diamond Society, and the first 'out' LGBTI person to be elected to national office in Asia. Photo courtesy of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
PAGE 6 has no official connection with BDS. But it lists Sunil Pant as "Patron and Advisor". Sunil is the founder of the Blue Diamond Society, and now the first 'out' LGBTI person to be elected to national office in Asia.

Sunil and BDS have become famous in LGBT circles. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in the US, gave BDS its Felipa de Souza award in 2007.

But his fame has spread outside our circles. In September the New York Times ran an interview with Sunil, and a handsome photograph. Foreign media are fascinated by the surprising success of BDS. Nepal, of all places! With its history of insurgency and a Maoist led government!

Sunil was a party-list candidate for the Communist Party of Nepal (United) - which is different than the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified), which in turn is different than the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). It is the Maoists who won the most seats in the election and lead the coalition government. China, by the way, refuses to recognise that they are "Maoist."

As in the Indian state of West Bengal, Communist does not mean old-style communist. But links to the old Soviet Union are littered around. Sunil himself studied engineering in Belarus, and the head of his party studied years earlier in Moscow.

Three parties in the election supported LGBTI rights in their party platforms - the Maoists, the Congress and the CPN (United).

Back to PAGE 6. Embedded in PAGE 6 is page 4, the page dedicated to "gender talk" and "diversity" - a weekly dose of LGBTI news and comment. PAGE 6 gets page 4 across to a broad Nepali audience.

In the year that PAGE 6 has been published, all the covers have been pop celebrities - except for one. When the BDS won a major court case in December, 2007, that story went on the cover. Circulation did not drop. The next week sexy celebrities returned to page one.

PAGE 6 is the first English language entertainment weekly in Nepal. Currently 5,000 copies are printed. Distribution is mainly in the central Kathmandu valley. It makes a bit of a profit. It's unique in the world as a gay-initiated mainstream tabloid designed to package LGBTI news.


Reader's Comments

1. 2008-10-15 19:52  
2. 2008-10-15 19:54  

3. 2008-10-15 23:09  
The party political explanation reminded me of this from the Monty Python comedy "Life of Brian":

REG: The only people we hate more than the Romans are the f**king Judaean People's Front.
P.F.J.: Yeah...
JUDITH: Splitters.
P.F.J.: Splitters...
FRANCIS: And the Judaean Popular People's Front.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judaea.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
REG: What?
LORETTA: The People's Front of Judaea. Splitters.
REG: We're the People's Front of Judaea!
LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
REG: People's Front! C-huh.
FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
REG: He's over there.
4. 2008-10-16 10:55  
You should all be very proud. Small steady steps will make the difference to us all
5. 2008-10-16 21:06  
Hail the enchanting land of majestic Himalayan mountains!

I'm very happy with the progress of BDS in Nepal. Please keep it up for it is very rare for a developing country to support the GLBTi rights. What's more, the current communist systems doesn't provide room for radical issues like GLBTi, like in North Korea.

But look at Singapore. A developed nation with little say on GLBTi. So contradictory.
6. 2008-10-17 02:27  

I just followed the link from Queerty.com and I was amazed. Here's why:

I'm a gay Nepali teenager.
I went back to Nepal over the summer (I live in the US) to visit.
I found out that my old house was now the headquarters of BDS! My house! Amazing!
I talked to the people there, but I didn't meet Sunil Pant.
They gave me a copy of Page 6. I still have it in my desk. Isn't that cool?

Yeah. I'm a really happy gay Nepali guy right now. Whohoo!
7. 2008-10-17 02:28  
I love Nepal ;)
8. 2008-10-21 12:25  
I first went to Nepal in 1995 and have never stopped going back. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. When the essential greeting of a country is 'Namaste - I salute the soul in you', can you expect anything less from them? I was born in sg but Nepal is the country of my heart and I am proud of the progress it has made.
9. 2008-11-25 22:04  
im so happy and proud of whats sunil has done in nepal. i am a nepalese gay here in sydney and love my life the way it is and i alwasy wished it was the same back in nepal. i ca now see good hpes for the gay community in nepal i will be ging back for holiday next year and hpefully meet sunil.
10. 2010-09-16 21:31  
Cool and bravo.

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