Gai Jatra celebrated as calls for equal rights of sexual and gender minorities

17 August 2019, Kathmandu

Gai Jatra is a festival generally celebrated in the month of Bhadra in Nepal, mainly in Kathmandu valley by the Newar community. This festival is believed to celebrate as the tradition in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of the Malla king.  King Pratap Malla, who ruled Kathmandu from 1641-1674 AD, initiated the festival as a way to console his wife after the death of their son. The idea behind the long procession was to help Malla’s queen realize how everyone loses their loved ones and that death is inevitable. It is further entered as a tradition to commemorate the death of loved ones. A chariot made of bamboo wrapped in cloth, with a photo of the dead person hung at the center, is navigated through a predefined street by the family along with localities. So a long parade of chariots is seen.

Similarly, Gaijatra has been also celebrated as a great festival to mock the power holders and social chaos.  It almost appears people are making fun of everyone constantly to comprehend the ongoing social, political and economic malfunctions.  In addition to this, on the occasion of Gaijatra, the LGBTIQ community have been organizing and celebrating their pride parades. In association with BDS ( Blue Diamond Society) and other LGBTI community and supporters Nepal’s 16th LGBTIQ Pride and Gaijatra had been celebrated yesterday in Kathmandu with a theme “our festival, our pride”.

 A large group of people from heterosexual community have widely and actively participated in that parade. The parade was especially organized as a step towards breaking social isolation where hundreds of LGBTIQ community with painted faces, vibrant attire and fluttering rainbow pride flags were participated as the second pride parade this year. Similar to this, Nepal’s LGBTIQ community holds their first parade during the pride month on June, 2019 in Kathmandu to deliver the message of equality and diversity in the Nepali society. The Gai Jatra parade that held on the day of Gai Jatra has been taking place since 2002 organized by Blue Diamond Society. As per Pinki Gurung, the Chairperson of the society, the parade has helped to make the society aware of the LGBTIQ community existence and in empowering their rights.  As the parade moved from Thamel Chowk to Thamel Marg, the bands played some popular numbers and the dancing and the singing continued. People from marginalized community marched on the street with fanfare occurs simultaneously with Gai Jatra, the festival of cows.

On the other hand, locals especially from the Newar community have criticized organizations working for LGBTI community rights for misplacing their pride parade on a festival of humor and jokes. Voices were raised against such society who made unilateral decision to convert a traditional festival into something else. However, Nepal is regarded as one of the most progressive countries in Asia to recognize LGBTI rights as the country’s constitution prohibits discrimination against sexual minorities and has special legal provisions for their protection, empowerment and advancement. The Supreme Court had directed the Nepal government authorities in 2007 to amend laws to end all the discrimination against LGBTI citizens. As per this, the government has been issuing citizenship and passport for third gender under “Other” category. LGBTIQ community so far is still struggling for their identity as calls for equal rights. For this, such Gai Jatra festival can be the connecting medium to disclose the LGBTI community with pride and hope.   

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