In 2006 Nepal’s King Gyanendra was forced from his throne by a democratic uprising. Since then the new parliament has begun working on a same-sex marriage law, which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of back in 2008. The law, expected to be in place by May 28, would safeguard the rights of sexual minorities, making it the first nation in Asia to do so.
This legislation comes as a surprise to Nepal’s neighbors, because as little as two years ago under King Gyanendra's iron-fisted rule, homosexuals could be arrested and sentenced to up to two years in jail, and were often beaten and persecuted by local police forces.
When the new law goes into effect, Nepal will be the first country in the region to sanction and approve gay marriages.
In the light of this new development, Tourism Minister Sharat Singh Bhandari has decided to tap into a resource worth tens of millions of dollars, but ignored by the majority of nations worldwide — gay tourists. Homosexual couples are considered to be one of the most able-to-leave-on-a-whim and free-spending segments of the lucrative and profit-hungry travel/vacation market today, but are shunned for religious/moral reasons in most of the traditionally favored “family” travel destinations. Nepal, however, plans to employ a temptation that most other tourist traps can’t match: an officially recognized gay wedding on the world’s loftiest peak — Mt. Everest!
Travel packages custom designed for gay couples also include special hotel rates and even elephant safaris for same-sex honeymooners.
In a move sure to have bigots renaming the famous peak Brokeback Mountain after the renowned movie, the Tourism Ministry of Nepal has already begun courting American gay couples. A few months ago in a pre-emptive strike, Bhandari sent an invitation to the International Conference on Gay & Lesbian Tourism in Boston Massachusetts, which read, “As the world knows, Nepal is the land of Mount Everest, world’s highest peak and the birth place of Lord Buddha, light of Asia. I, therefore, would like to take this opportunity to invite and welcome all the sexual and gender minorities from around the world.”
The invitation was sent in light of Nepal’s anticipated hosting of the first official Asian Symposium on Gay & Lesbian Tourism in Kathmandu, to take place this June.
Bhandari added, “We’re completely changing this country. It’s a newborn republic — and we want to showcase this change. We also want to re-establish tourism as a major industry.”
The Tourism Ministry’s goal is to attract over a million visitors to the Himalayan nation in 2011… and this just might do it.