A leading gay rights organization, which is in the limelight even internationally, has plunged into serious financial trouble due to a series of accusations and cases filed against its founder and director Sunil Babu Pant, placing the future of its employees and the interests of sexual minorities under threat.
Claims of massive financial irregularities and nepotism at the Blue Diomond Society (BDS) has been made by a growing number of people who earlier worked with BDS, and three cases were filed recently against the organization and its founder.
The mess at the organization has not only tarnished its image but also left it unable to pay the salaries of most staff for the past three months.
“This year Pant has faced three cases against him and I am sure more are in the pipeline,” said Bardi Pun, who has remained national lesbian coordinator and BDS board member for the past four years. “The problem at BDS is you have no right to know the details of any financial transaction no matter whether you are an ordinary member or a board member, or raise a finger against any bias. You ask questions and your job is in danger.”
Pun stated that the first case, filed by Binod Lama, is enough to put Pant behind bars. “If they investigate the charges labeled against him including over ownership of the house in Dhumbarahi which Pant managed to have registered in his own name instead of the organization´s, it would be clear how corrupt he is,” the transgender said.
“I was among those who signed for an amount of Rs 40.1 million donated to the organization. And I have never learnt how the money was used,” added Pun, who on 30 November filed a case against the organization for suddenly terminating his tenure.
Punam Rokka, another former employee at BDS, claims to have been a victim of nepotism at BDS. “They sack you without valid reason if you fail to tolerate any level of discrimination inside the organization. Male domination is very prominent here too, and we face a high degree of discrimination for being lesbians,” said Rokka, who has filed a case against the organization for not disbursing her remaining salary.
A staffer at BDS said that he cannot speak to media about the inside story of the organization as he cannot afford to lose his job. “Many wrong things happen here, but please do not mention my name,” he said.
Pant, talking to Republica, stated that all the legal charges and allegations are nothing but a conspiracy by a group that wants to destroy BDS for their personal gain. “The report on charges of corruption is going to come out soon. Informally we already know I have been given a clean chit by the CDO but it will be there for all to see once it is out,” he said.
Meanwhile, he also expressed sadness over the actions of the disgruntled group, the same being reported by a local channel and this leading to the drying up of support from some donors.
“We have 750 staff across the country and 400,000 members; we are unable to pay salaries to many since a few months. Many organizations have stopped giving us funds though we still have good support from a few others,” he said. “This is purely a conspiracy. I have never been engaged in any kind of corruption.”
BDS was established in 2001 and gradually gained popularity nationally and internationally for its work for gender minorities. It has a history of organizing marriages of even international same sex couples, thanks to a relatively liberal Nepali society, and the Gay Olympics held in Kathmandu recently attracted the attention of global media.
RESPONSE FROM BLUE DIAMOND SOCIETY
The Blue Diamond Society (BDS) has expressed concern over what it called conspiracies to defame the society and weaken the campaign launched for the rights of third gender people and sexual minorities.
Speaking at a news conference here on Friday, society chairperson Pinki said, “Some people who were expelled from the society on corruption charges are plotting to weaken the campaign for the rights of sexual minorities and third gender people.”
The society has been fighting for the rights of sexual minorities and third genders for the past 12 years, Gurung said.
Refuting news stories that there was rampant corruption inside the Association and some were sexually harassed by its director and former CA member Sunil Babu Panta inside the office, Gurung said such incidents never took place in the association.
Similarly, third gender Bishnu Adhikari said some people were hatching conspiracy to tarnish the image of society. “I was the first person getting the citizenship certificate with the identification of third gender with the help of the Society,” Adhikari said.
Adhikari accused Badri Pun, Jamim Shah and Punam Rokka, expelled from the society on corruption charges, of cheating colleagues.
Other third gender people Durga Thapa, Chanda Bhusal, Bhakti Shah, Suman and Bhumika Shrestha urged the society to take intiative to establish them in the society. At present, the society is running with 40 offices and 750 employees. According to society statistics, the population of sexual minorities and third genders is around 400,000.