News & Events

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Event Type: News & Events
Event Location: IIDS Campus

6th Episode: Movie on the House

Blue Flower: A Journey of Struggles and Identity in Nepal's LGBTQIA+ Community

The Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS) hosted its 6th Movie on the House (MOTH) series on the 30th of June, 2023. This event was in collaboration with the Department of Gender Studies, Tribhuvan University, and Purple Foundation to celebrate Pride Month with the movie screening of “Blue Flower". The program commenced with a group activity led by our moderator Dr. Madhurima Bhadra, a feminist activist and public health expert, in which the audience gathered in groups for a pride-themed quiz. Participants worked together to answer questions regarding the global history of LGBTQIA+ activism and legal progress, which helped raise awareness and prepare the audience for the movie screening. Afterward, Mr. Sunil Babu Pant, director and producer of “Blue Flower” introduced the movie and offered some of his thoughts before the screening began. 

About Blue Flower

Blue Flower, and its director Mr. Sunil Babu Pant, take audiences on an emotional and thought-provoking journey through the complexities of sexuality, gender identity, and the challenges faced by Nepal's LGBTQIA+ community. Inspired by personal experiences and the stories he has heard and witnessed over time, Pant masterfully portrays the struggles and victimization that occur when there is a lack of understanding of sexuality. Through his storytelling, Pant sheds light on the struggles faced by individuals in conforming to rigid gender roles and the oppressive nature of the patriarchy ingrained in traditional culture.

One of the central themes of the movie is the control exerted over women's bodies, perpetuated by societal expectations and the concept of prestige. In the Nepalese society, there have been many instances of individuals being forced into heterosexual marriages — men are expected to have a wife and eventually assert control over her body to ensure the birth child's legitimacy. This control is more often than not considered a symbol of prestige for the family. Unfortunately, the society victimizes persons of the LGBTQIA+ community and affected women which in turn leads to their subjugation and loss of agency.

The movie also highlights an important theme regarding how intersectional oppressions harm multiple victims. Patriarchy, lack of awareness about sexual health, stigmatization of sexuality, and discrimination against queer people are issues ingrained in traditional culture and perpetuated by several actors in the film. These oppressions do not just affect the main protagonists, a young gay man from rural Nepal named Tilak and his young new bride and partner but also all of his community members. Recognizing these overlapping injustices and how they interact is an important first step to dismantling them.

During the casting process of the documentary, Pant prioritized actors with strong personalities that reflected the character's struggles in the movie, without directly asking about their gender identities or sexual orientations. Such inquiries are not typically made for heterosexual roles and he wished to be respectful towards all. Similarly, the movie's title, "Blue Flower'', also carries symbolic significance. In European societies, the color blue represents the LGBTQIA+ community. Furthermore, the rarity of blue flowers in everyday life reflects the limited acceptance of diverse gender identities. Pant's choice of title also pays homage to the Hindu goddess Kali, who represents feminism and empowerment.

Q&A Session with Sunil Babu Pant

After the screening of Blue Flower, Dr. Bhadra moderated a session where the audience asked Pant questions about his movie and the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community in Nepal. The audience for this interactive session consisted of members of the Purple Foundation, gender studies students from Tribhuvan University, queer and feminist activists, and employees as well of IIDS.

Eastern and Western Philosophies on Gender 

During the interactive session with Dr. Bhadra, the discussion turned to the similarities and differences in challenges faced by the transgender community internationally and in Nepal. Pant provided his personal opinions about the contrasting philosophies regarding gender and sexuality in Eastern and Western cultures.

According to him, while the Eastern part of the world has a long history of accepting more than two genders, the Western influence, largely shaped by religious narratives, limits the recognition of diverse gender identities. Pant talked about the ancient practice of sexual liberation in Eastern cultures and the belief in multiple gender identities. He stressed on his belief that gender identity goes beyond biological distinctions and encompasses a spectrum of identities and expressions.

Trailblazing Progress and Ongoing Challenges

As the first person to file a petition for third-gender recognition in Nepal, Pant has witnessed significant changes since then. Citizenship is now granted to more than two genders, and he served as a member of parliament, providing representation for openly gay men. However, challenges persist, as prejudices and differing opinions/perspectives still exist, and certain provisions restrict the freedom of third-gender individuals. Pant acknowledges the need for greater democratic efficiency, as bureaucracy often hinders the process of enacting laws that protect the rights and provisions of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Since Pant's historic petition, legal changes have been implemented, such as the recognition of the third gender and the drafting of laws to recognize same-sex marriages. However, bureaucratic inefficiencies and a lack of prioritization hinder further progress. Pant advocates for increased awareness, visibility, and pride, not just during Pride Month but throughout the year.

The Importance of Civil Discourse

Given Pant’s influence as a prominent activist in Nepal, a member of the audience requested a statement from Pant regarding accusations about his alleged “transphobic” and “Brahminic” rhetoric. The interaction demonstrated how even though these issues are complex, we must not shy away from uncomfortable conversations but educate ourselves. It also highlighted the importance of civil discourse in these discussions to turn potentially charged interactions into powerful learning experiences.

Concluding Remarks 

Through its poignant storytelling, "Blue Flower" dramatizes themes of patriarchy, control over women's bodies, and the lack of awareness surrounding sexuality and sexual health. The film challenges societal norms and encourages individuals to embrace their true selves, rather than conforming to others' expectations. Pant emphasizes that queer individuals are not “inferior” and deserve equal rights as well as acceptance.

The event summary was prepared by Subi Kalra and Avaash Bhattarai, Research Interns, IIDS