Nepal: Asia's New Gay Hub?

Nepal, the tiny Himalayan country known for some of the highest mountains in the world, now wants to establish itself as the world's newest gay destination. Nepal hopes to welcome more than 1 million tourists during the year. The country only recently surfaced from a deadly decade-long conflict in which 13,000 people were killed.

The ambitious goal, set to unveil on Jan. 14th, comes from a country that just two years ago became the first country in South Asia to decriminalize homosexuality, a move the government hoped would invite gay tourists to tie the knot and honeymoon in the Himalayas. 

Since then, the country's Supreme Court has approved same-sex marriage, asking lawmakers to guarantee gays equal rights under the new constitution. Nepal now issues "third-gender" national ID cards and elected its first openly gay lawmaker to parliament, Sunil Babu Pant, in 2008.

Now, the country is promoting Mount Everest as a destination for gay weddings.

But many Nepalis oppose gay rights and the idea of gay tourism, and the government has had to act cautiously. The majority of Nepalis are Hindus who do not view homosexuality favorably. During the insurgency, transgender men and women were regularly harassed and beaten by Maoists, and gays faced widespread harassment.

Some members of Nepal's gay community say they are still not comfortable opening up about their sexuality, citing discrimination from law enforcement and society. "They will call us names, and some of our members have even been raped," said Pradeep Khadka, a gay man who lives in Kathmandu, the capital, told the Washington Post.

An interesting fact: Nepal's national census will include a new category for transgender people when counting begins in May, the government said Sunday, in a move welcomed by equality activists. Nepal plans to complete the census, which takes place every ten years, in two months. About 28 million people live in the mountainous country. India will also have a transgender category in its 2011 census, the domestic Press Trust of India news agency reported on Sunday, though no government spokesman was able to confirm the plan.

Now, will I go visit? I'm unsure. I'm not a mountain climber, not a hiker, which is just intense walking with a purpose...so, I'm unsure of what other great things they can offer gay tourists that are not as outdoorsy. Tell me about the beautiful hotels, delicious food, great shopping (yes, I'm a cliche) or about the hot Nepalese men (yes, I really like looking at hot men while visiting; its tourism) ...I think I need some thing a little more alluring.

But, it's not completely out of the question; I'm considering.

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