As the youngest girl in her family, Shova watched her elder sisters married off early in life. She grew up surrounded by her brothers and male cousins, socialised to respect men over women. Attracted to the discipline of the profession and following in her father and brother’s footsteps she joined the Nepal Army in 2006. At the time she was unaware of her sexuality. One year into her service she was accused of being a lesbian and then imprisoned by the Nepal Army for 45 days suffering insults and psychological torture on a daily basis. After her release, she was dismissed from service. She did not attempt to file a case against the Army for the sake of her family. Her family were shocked and furthermore did not believe she was a lesbian, mistaking this to mean she was intersex. Shova explains: “In the context of Nepal society it is very difficult to accept lesbians because in our society women are treated as second class citizens. There is double discrimination when people come to know there is a lesbian in the community. People think that it is shameful and that they will spoil the society, so they force them to get married with the opposite sex and mentally and physically torture and harass them.”
After she was dismissed, Shova knocked on the door of a local LGBTI organisation, where she was given the chance to explore and understand her sexuality in safety. Two years ago, Shova was interviewed on TV. Recognising their daughter, her parents initially reacted strongly against her speaking out about her sexuality. They forced her to split up with her partner and made her agree not to publicly broadcast her sexuality again.
Shova explains her parent’s reaction: “First of all they were confused about the definition of lesbian and they did not accept me as a lesbian. But slowly they are getting knowledge about community through different media, so they are analysing me and my behaviour and are trying to understand me”.
Currently she is working as an LGBTI activist for a local rights based organisation in Nepal. With MakeUp2MakeUp’s support, she has undertaken English lessons and attended a hairdressing school. She says improving her English skills has assisted her with writing of reports, documentation of cases and communicating with other agencies and people involved in her field of work. At weekends, when she returns to visit her village, she cuts and styles the hair of her family and friends, and works on magazine shoots helping out with hair and makeup.