Nepal yesterday (7 January) announced plans to add a third gender category to passports, following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling recognizing third gender.
‘We have changed the passport regulations and will add a third category of gender for those people who do not want to be identified as male or female,’ Lok Bahadur Thapa, chief of the government’s passport department, told Reuters.
Nepal joins a handful of countries that recognize a third gender on official documents, including India. Australian and New Zealand nationals can choose from three genders on passports – male, female or indeterminate, marked by an ‘x.’
While Nepal still punishes gay sex by up to a year in jail, the measure is a sign that the Hindu-majority country is becoming more liberal as it prepares for its first constitution, which is expected to ensure greater rights to the LGBTI community.
Activists said the third gender recognition on passports would help tackle widespread discrimination against the country’s sexual minorities.
‘This is an expected and positive move forward from the Nepal government yet it’s taken so long to issue correct documents to its citizens,’ said Sunil Pant, founder of leading LGBTI rights group Blue Diamond Society, told Gay Star News.
‘Once the correct identification is formalized, a lot of other systemic discrimination will fade away and third genders will have access to education, they can apply for jobs, open businesses, travel and own property.’