The Nepalese government just announced that when counting begins in May, the country’s census will include a category for people who identify as “transgender.” This is an extremely progressive move (the United States is among the many countries that do not allow for self-identification outside the binary categories of “male” and “female”).
It’s also surprising, because Nepal remains a conservative country. Their government, however, has been quite forward-thinking in terms of gay rights. In 2007, the Nepalese Supreme Court ordered the government to throw out laws that discriminated against people because of sexual orientation. People could previously be jailed for up to a year for “unnatural sex acts.” According to officials, the court’s ruling prompted the new census decision.
Sunil Babu Panta, Nepal’s first openly gay parliamentarian, lauded the decision.
“This shows that the government has started to recognise them. I hope this will help to ensure their rights,” he said, quoted in an AFP article. “But challenges remain for the community as they have often been forced to leave their villages and taken refuge in cities due to discrimination.”
I’m sure that it’s just as challenging (if not more so) to identify as transgender in Nepal, but it’s heartening to see that the government is so committed to recognizing and protecting LGBT civil rights. According to the AFP article, India will also be including “transgender” as a category in their 2011 census, although I couldn’t find an article confirming this. All of this is making the United States look pretty backwards – but could it push us toward more inclusive gender categories in the 2020 census?
Photo from Flickr.
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