Lawmaker bids to make Nepal gay tourism destination

KATHMANDU, January 24, 2010 (AFP) – Nepal will this year play host to a royal wedding with a difference when an openly gay Indian prince marries his partner at a Hindu temple in Kathmandu. The ceremony is the start of what Nepalese lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant hopes will become a lucrative business for his country, whose once thriving tourist industry is still reeling from a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006.

Pant, the only openly gay member of Nepal’s parliament, has set up a travel agency catering specifically for homosexual tourists, who he says face severe discrimination in many Asian countries.

He believes Nepal, which has made large strides forward on gay rights issues in recent years thanks largely to his own efforts, is well placed to cash in on an industry worth an estimated 670 million dollars worldwide.

“If we brought even one percent of that market to Nepal it would be big. But I’m hoping we can attract 10 percent,” said Pant, who was selected in May 2008 to represent a small communist party in Nepal’s parliament.

“The choices (for gay tourists) in this region are very limited, and there is really no competition from China or India. Nepal is one of the few