Postcard from... Kathmandu


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The Independent Online

Amidst tooting horns and ringing chimes, people paraded through Nepal’s capital yesterday for a colourful celebration of Gaijatra, a Hindu festival to remember the dead that is gleefully overtaken each year by the country’s gay and transgender community.

Thousands lined the cobblestoned streets of Kathmandu’s old city to watch the parade of rainbow-coloured balloons and banners along the route, from the tourist hub of Thamel to the city’s central square. Traditionally, the festival was the only day people felt free to cross-dress, but social norms are changing fast as this fledgling democracy emerges from centuries of religious monarchy.

A government committee is recommending same-sex marriage be guaranteed in a new constitution — a move that would give gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt, buy joint property, open joint bank accounts and inherit from one another. Political parties have already backed the idea, and many hope the new constitution can be passed this year.

Hindu priest Laxman Acharya said he expected most Nepalese to accept the change. “It is not going to dent the culture or religion,” Mr Acharya said at his temple in the mountainous capital. “If two people are happy then no one should say anything.” AP