Nepal’s First Openly Gay Member of Parliament Doesn’t Stop Innovating

From TV shows to new NGOs, Nepal’s Sunil Pant teaches a lesson or two on innovating in restrictive environments.

Sunil Pant


Sunil Pant is the sort of activist politician you rarely see in the United States these days. He makes regular headlines, is always stirring things up in Parliament, knows the right people to get on his side, and simply never stops pushing the envelope. Unlike U.S. politicians, he has far less concern with pleasing the right people and making his way up. A computer programmer by training, his primary concern is promoting and defending the rights of Nepal’s LGBTI community. And in that regard, he has been innovating up a storm lately, with his latest venture the introduction of a weekly TV show on youth and LGBTI issues, the first of its kind in Nepal. Pant is pushing all sorts of cultural, religious, and political boundaries and no one is stopping him.

While we generally talk about innovation in tech and business, what about political entrepreneurs? Innovating in the political sphere takes the same set of skills and qualities–thinking outside the box, identifying unique opportunities, partnering with the right people, and so on. Pant is a political entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word and his innovations are not limited to Nepal; Pant is leading a gay rights revolution across Asia and even played a central role in New York City’s Pride Parade earlier this summer.

In addition to the TV show, which was just announced last week, today Pant announced that the first gay wedding of an Indian couple is to be held in Kathmandu. It’s a complicated scenario, because while Nepal’s Supreme Court has unofficially said “yes” to allowing gay marriage, they have not enacted the decision into law as of yet. The situation is further complicated by the couple’s nationalities; one is British and one is Indian, and each have been told to seek the advice of their respective Embassies in Nepal in order to obtain some kind of official marriage license.

But somehow I suspect Pant has something up his sleeve, that the complicated nature of the situation is a way to push the right buttons and ruffle the right feathers to get what he wants: the legalization of gay marriage in Nepal. We’ll just have to wait and see what he does next.

About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.