Making love, not war
The 25th anniversary of the start of the Maoist insurgency on 13 February was followed in Nepal by Valentine's Day.
The erstwhile Maoists in the government have given up marking their 'People's War Day' after they joined up with the moderate left UML in 2017 to form the Nepal Communist Party. And the ruling party with a historic majority is now split right down the middle between factions led by Prime Minister K P Oli and the former Maoist commander Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda).
If Valentine's Day was to have a political significance, it would have been marked by the two factions kissing and making up. But no such luck.
While Nepalis appear to be taking Valentine's Day increasingly seriously despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the two most powerful leaders in the country have fallen out in a big way. There is now so much bad blood between Oli and Dahal that few see a chance of a patch-up.
The two factions are competing to amass larger and larger rallies as a show of force to try to influence the Supreme Court which is to decide on Oli's dissolution of the house and call for snap polls, and the and the Election Commission which is trying to make up its mind on which faction should get the party flag and poll symbol.
The Nepali public has now tuned off from the war of words between rival politicians, and instead marked the day of love with various events in Kathmandu -including this gathering in Patan of the LGBTIQ+ community on Valentine’s day organised by Bibeksheel Sajha party. The turnout saw attendees performing in celebration while waving rainbow flags and carrying heart-shaped messages proclaiming माया त माया हो.
Calling the gathering a ‘message of love’, the alternative political party invited attendees to 'not only respect love between men and women, but also to respect and accept the love of sexual minorities'.
Although Nepal’s Constitution is among the most progressive in the region when it comes to recognising the rights of LGBTIQ+ people, a majority in Nepal is far from acceptance of the community, as a result of which Nepal’s sexual minorities face stigma, discrimination, and intolerance.
Sunday’s celebratory turnout comes in the wake of a wave of anti-government protest across the country following proposed travel restrictions on women, and a string of rapes and murders of young women across the country where perpetrators have gone unpunished.