KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Homosexuals hankering after a wedding on elephant back or on top of the world can head to Nepal, where a travel agency has been set up to cater to their holiday, and celebratory, needs.
The Pink Mountain agency was founded by three Nepali gay men, including Sunil Babu Pant, the country’s only openly gay member of parliament.
Pant said he hoped the agency would attract rich gays and lesbians to the Himalayan nation that is home to Mount Everest and which is still recovering from a decade-long civil war.
“We’ll ensure that there is no discrimination against them in Nepal and welcome gay and lesbian visitors in adventure sports like rafting, trekking, mountaineering and jungle safaris,” he told Reuters.
The agency also offers same-sex wedding packages on Everest, the world’s tallest peak, which along with Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, helps to attracts nearly half a million tourists to Nepal every year.
“We’ll support any gay couples, lesbian couples who want to marry and honour their relations in exotic places like on Everest or organise wedding parties,” Pant added.
Homosexuality remains taboo in Nepal but the country has become increasingly more gay friendly over the last few years.
Two gay men got married in the first public same-sex wedding in the majority-Hindu nation three years ago.
Two years ago, the country’s Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, ordered the government to draft laws guaranteeing gays and lesbians equal rights to other citizens.
In 2007, hundreds whistled and cheered as gay contestants sashayed down the catwalk at the nation’s first beauty contest for homosexuals.
In neighbouring India, a court last year ruled gay sex was not a crime, a verdict experts feel will boost an increasingly vocal pro-gay lobby demanding equal rights in the region.
Tourism accounts for four percent of Nepal’s GDP. The government hopes to double the numbers in 2011 to boost the economy hit by years the conflict.
Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Miral Fahmy