The caste system is thousands of years old, but after the Gorkhali conquest of the Newa kingdoms in the Kathmandu Valley and the subsequent unification of Nepal, new legislation was needed to regulate the relations between the many castes, ethnic groups and language communities that had been incorporated into the kingdom.
In 1854, Jaṅg Bahādur Rāṇā promulgated the मुलुकी ऐन Mulukī Ain, an elaborate piece of legislation which regulated in painstaking detail how transgressions against caste would be punished in Nepal. The original manuscript of the law even contained one chapter on same-sex inter-caste pollution in order to sanction cases where two members of the same sex, but not of the same caste, had engaged in amorous activities.
Jaṅg Bahādur Rāṇā brought back a printing press from Europe in 1851, and the first printed version of the Mulukī Ain was published in the 1890s. The chapter on same-sex pollution was not included in the printed versions of the law because such material was not deemed suitable for a large readership, but Jean Fézas published the omitted chapter of the original manuscript in the Journal Asiatique in 1983.
The law meticulously detailed numerous punishments, ranging from fines and cruel corporeal punishments to the death penalty for transgressions against caste purity. Each type of inter-caste transgression was weighted differently, and the various fines for smaller transgressions were precisely counted out in rupees and pice.
Quite logically, punishments meted out for inter-caste pollution were far more severe in cases involving a man and a woman than in cases involving two men, and lesbian love lay entirely beyond the purview of the law. Between two amorous men, there was no risk of offspring of mixed genealogy, and the honour of a woman was not besmirched.
The severity of the prescribed punishments was based on which caste was doing what and to whom. Moreover, two members of an inter-caste liaison were not punished with equal severity. Close study of the stipulations of this penal code reveals the labyrinthine thinking inherent to the racist psychology of caste in fascinating detail.