Male or female? When it comes to filling out identification forms, most of us know which box to check. For others, it’s a more difficult and often troubling task. What do you do when you’re asked to “just pick one,” but neither option matches your identity? Last month, Nepal announced it would offer one solution by legally recognizing a third “other” gender.
República reports that Nepal’s Home Ministry has extended this “other” option to members of the country’s LGBTI community, particularly transgender and intersex individuals who “would get harassed at police stations, offices, schools, colleges, hospitals [and] public toilets.”
“The LGBTI community will from now onwards be categorized under ‘others’ as per their wish,” Shankar Koirala, spokesperson at the Home Ministry, told República. “Only the technical process remains to be completed in this connection.”
Nepalese LGBTI advocates are praising the decision, saying the move is empowering.
“The state has given us our right. This means we will no longer face harassment for having a different sexual orientation. Society might take time to recognize and accept us for what we are, but what the state has given us now means half the battle is won,” said Dev Gurung, who is transgender.
“The Supreme Court had passed a verdict directing the government to issue citizenship cards to the third gender in 2007, but it is finally being implemented,” Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s first openly gay lawmaker, told The Nation. “My friends have told me they feel proud about it.”
Often, LGBTI Nepalese encounter difficulty applying for colleges, opening bank accounts and obtaining travel permits because the gender on their official documents doesn’t match their appearance. Pant believes the addition of a third gender will alleviate a significant number of the problems.
“It will also help find the correct figures on the number of third gender in Nepal, so the government can address the problems facing this community,” Pant said.
Graphic ©2012 Miranda Perry, used here with permission.