News & Events

Event Date:
Event Type: News & Events
Event Location: IIDS

3rd Episode: Movie on The House (MOTH)

On Tuesday, 7 June 2022, the Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS) with its partnership with Tribhuvan University’s Department of Gender Studies hosted its third Movie on the House (MOTH).  In honor of Pride Month, the screening of two documentaries, `Pink Tiffany’ and `Rubina by Night’ took place at the IIDS Campus. Miranda Morton Yap is the producer of both the documentaries and the co-director of the latter along with Sophie Dia Pegrum who is the director of both the documentaries.   

The two documentaries, while focusing on the personal stories of Ms. Meghna Lama and Ms. Rubina, showcase many aspects of the trans community in Nepal, particularly trans women. This includes their personal journeys, hardships as well as celebrations. It also highlights systemic failures ranging from employment discrimination to sexual assault faced by the community.  For this event, Ms. Angel Lama was invited as the subject-matter expert. Ms.  Lama is a trans activist, Miss Pink 2018 and the first trans-woman to participate in Miss Universe Nepal, who hopes to uplift her community and works extensively on disseminating information on the importance of sex education. 

Tribhuvan University's Gender Studies Department students along with post-graduate students from other universities from different streams, in-house scholars, academics, members from the LGBTQIA+ community, activists and practitioners watched the documentary at the IIDS campus. The MOTH Series at IIDS hosts an interactive discussion with the audience after the screening.  The event was moderated by Samar SJB Rana, Senior Research Assistant at IIDS. 

The program commenced with Mr. Rana’s welcoming remarks, while also acknowledging that this series was started under the initiation and guidance of Dr. Sucheta Pyakuryal. The screening of the two short documentaries then commenced after which a discussion with the audience followed. 

Systemic Failures and the Role of Government Agencies 

One of the glaring issues that was brought to the forefront in the documentaries were, employment discrimination and the lack of autonomy in trans people’s financial independence. In the documentaries it is mentioned that the majority of trans women in Nepal rely on sex work for their livelihood. The discourse extensively elaborated on how sex work is not a work of choice of trans people but something that is imposed upon them by the society. Ms. Lama highlighted the hurdles trans people face in attaining education due to institutional and societal rejections. In addition, sexual assaults against trans women were also highlighted, in particular by police officers who are out patrolling at night. 

Discrimination in the judicial system against trans people and the criminalization of sex work further reduces trans people’s plight.  Ms. Lama also called attention to the inefficiency in various constitutional bodies and government agencies. The red-tape in constitutional bodies like National Human Rights Commission of Nepal discourage members of the trans-community from reporting harassment. The system does not account for their personal security and the concerned authorities are not sensitized about the grievances of the LGBTQIA+ community while working on their reports. Likewise, many of trans community members hesitate to disclose their sexual orientation from their families, which adds another layer of impediments for them.  

The discussion also brought about the issue of legislation discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. While within the predominant religions and/or scriptures do not condemn members of the community or their union, same sex marriage has still not been legalized in the country. Due to the lack of protection by the institutions, many members rely on the goodwill of well-established members of the community as well as the Hijra code of mentoring for navigating the difficulties that members of this community face. 

Representation of the LGBT+ community in the Media  

Previously, queer representation in the media, if at all, was given in a negative light or even as a punchline as Ms. Meghna states in ‘Pink Tiffany’.  Ms. Miranda mentioned that she has seen several screenings of her documentaries and people do have curiosity and ask many questions. She mentioned that through mediums like her documentaries people are gaining awareness and deeper empathy for members of the community. The rise of social media can also be attributed to this slow change. Although social media could be a double-edged sword, mentioned by Mr. Parakram Rana. While being openly gap and speaking publicly about queer issues has had an educational impact on his audience and helped younger LGBTQIA+ members, he mentions that there are people that are hateful towards him due to his sexual orientation on these platforms. Altogether, it was agreed that these platforms must be given to marginalized communities to raise awareness. 

Sexual Education and Reproductive Health 

Ms. Lama echoed the need for comprehensive sex education and reproductive health. She elucidated that sex education and reproductive health should not be limited to safe sex and menstrual hygiene only and should encompass a broader vision of gender inclusion and sexuality. She believes that incorporating sex education programs in educational curriculums would not only create a healthier population and safer experiences, but it would also remove the misunderstanding of the LGBTQIA+. She stressed the fact that older generations unaware of the plight of the queer community must deconstruct and unlearn the stigma and misinformation they have previously received to gain a deeper understanding and empathy. Likewise, children could be taught this not only through education but through their environment and society. She also mentioned her on-going involvement with organizations like the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) and the Right Here Right Now Project that are currently working on creating a comprehensive sex education program. Furthermore, Gender Studies has been added as an elective subject in secondary school to help move in this direction. 

The Visibility of Trans Men 

The lack of visibility of trans men in comparison to trans women was questioned during the discussion. According to Ms. Lama, trans men face similar hardships encountered by trans women in varying degrees according to their intersectional identities. She reminded the audience that many queer community organizations were started by trans women and that could have led to a focus on trans women’s issues. However, they have since worked in issues faced by trans men. According to Ms. Lama these issues could include HIV aids stigma, menstrual health and hygiene problems and toxic masculinity. 

Furthermore, in a patriarchal society such as Nepal, the pressure of being a male heir could leave to rejection of trans women by their families. Thus, discrimination could possibly be felt and seen more by trans women. 

The event summary was prepared by Vera Jasmine Shrestha, a research intern at IIDS.

Watch the Q&A session here