Police today made public five persons held for their alleged involvement in killing Ajita Bhujel.

Ajita, a 29-year-old transgender woman, was found dead at around 4:30 am on January 19 in Hetauda. Her body was discovered near the Kyampadanda road, half-naked and beaten to death.

Hetauda Police paraded the five accused amid a press conference today. As per police investigation, the arrested had murdered Ajita and dumped her body along the highway.

The arrestees have been identified as 18-year-old Simone Pariyar, 25-year-old Sushil Thapa Magar, 20-year-old Elisha Pakhrin, 24-year-old Ashish Bal and 21-year-old Buddha Lama.

Ajita’s mobile, among her other belongings, were missing when police found her body. Police were able to arrest the five after Elisha was found using Ajita’s lost phone. The phone was initially given to Ashish by Buddha and Elisha is Ashish’s wife, police said.

Bhujel used to work as a rights activist at the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s oldest LGBTIQ rights organization with branches across the country.

Kiran Thapa, a close friend of Ajita, said that she appreciates the role played by police, media and the Blue Diamond Society in finding Ajita’s murderers.

“Our only demand, as members of the LGBTQ community, is that the government amend its policies and stipulate stringent action against such criminals. Years in prison is not enough, such persons should be given a death sentence.”

Transgender men and women continue to face stigma and prejudice from society, which denies them access to traditional means of employment.

With few options, they often turn to sex work, which can be dangerous. In March last year, Junu Gurung, a transgender sex worker, was beaten to death.

But as prostitution is illegal in Nepal, they have no legal means of redress when they are mistreated or assaulted by customers. Often, they are doubly victimized by the police.