Nepal gay MP dubs Azad sociopath

Kathmandu, July 6 (IANS) The outrage triggered by Indian Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's statement that homosexuality was 'unnatural' spread outside India with the founder of the gay rights movement in Nepal Wednesday calling him a sociopath.

'The Indian health minister has a problem called sociopathy,' said Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal's only openly gay member of parliament and founder of Blue Diamond Society, the pioneering gay rights organisation in the conservative Himalayan republic that has wrested same-sex marriage recognition from Nepal's apex court and forced the major political parties to recognise the rights of the sexual minorities.

'(Azad) should be treated before he can serve as the health minister of India,' Pant said, reacting to the debate sparked in India this week after Azad said at a HIV/AIDS conference in New Delhi Monday that sex between two men is 'completely unnatural and shouldn't happen'.

The comment brought him under fire from gay rights activists in India.

'The main characteristic of a sociopath is disregard for the rights of others,' said Pant who is raising funds to build the first shelter for battered gays in South Asia. 'Anti-social tendencies are a big part of the sociopath's personality.'

The Blue Diamond Society, which runs a hospice for homosexuals with HIV/AIDS and those terminally ill and thrown out by their families, is now building a shelter in Kathmandu where homosexuals persecuted in South Asia, especially in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, can find a safe haven.

Despite being a patriarchal society that values the son more than daughter, Nepal made rapid progress in the gay rights movement with the Supreme Court accepting the sexual minorities as 'natural people' and directing the government to safeguard their rights.

The minor communist party that broke new ground by nominating Pant to parliament three years ago also supported transgenders and a eunuch candidate during the historic election the same year, earning kudos from gay rights activists in India.

Nepal last month hosted a public wedding for a lesbian couple from the US with the usually orthodox Brahmin priests at the temple where the ceremony was performed not turning a hair.

The Indian minister has tried to allay the furore, saying his concern was due to men having sex with men being difficult to identify, counsel and treat when they became HIV positive.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)