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24 Nov 2008

Nepal to recognise a ''third gender''; consider same-sex marriage

Nepal has become the first country in the world to officially recognise a "third gender" following the Supreme Court's landmark ruling last year; and same-sex marriage may be in the pipeline. Fridae speaks to Sunil Pant, Nepal's first openly gay Member of Parliament, for the latest developments.

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Nepal's Supreme Court has reiterated its ruling in a written judgement released recently that the government must create or amend existing laws that discriminate against sexual and gender minorities.

Sunil Pant, founder of Blue Diamond Society and Nepal's first openly gay Member of Parliament.

On Dec 21 last year, the Supreme Court of Nepal in a landmark ruling decreed that sexual and gender minorities are "natural persons" and as such should be guaranteed the same rights as other citizens. The ruling comes after Blue Diamond Society (BDS) – a pioneer LGBT organisation in Nepal, and three other LGBTI organisations filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court against the government, Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministry of Law, justice and Parliamentary Affairs, and Parliament of Nepal.

Although Nepal has no laws that specifically criminalise same-sex sexual relations, "unnatural sexual acts" which are not defined may be punishable with up to 1-year in prison and/or 5000 RS (US$62) fine under the bestiality chapter of the country's civil (criminal) code, Sunil Pant, founder of BDS told Fridae in an email.

LGBTs as well as sexual minorities such as metis (biological males who typically have a feminine orientation and physical appearance but may or may not wish to undergo sex realignment surgery) face being harassed, abused and/or arbitrarily arrested and detained by Nepalese authorities under "public nuisance" laws.

Since last year's Supreme Court ruling, the government has started to issue identity cards to metis who have been previously denied any kind of official documentation without which one is unable to open a bank account, be formally employed, start a business, own a vehicle or get a passport.

Their identity card will recognise them as "Third Gender" and banks such as Everest Bank has changed its account opening form to include "Other" apart from male and female under the gender column, according to In Plainspeak, a publication of the New Delhi-based The South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality.

Pant told Fridae that applicants just have to apply at the central district office and medical tests are not required.

Contrary to media reports in September that a 21-year-old "lesbian" has become the first person in Nepal to be officially recognised as a third gender person, the scheme is not targeted at gay men or lesbians but individuals whose gender identity is not aligned with his or her biological sex, Pant explained. Pant has further clarified that the 21-year-old does not identify as a woman but as a third gender person.

The court's ruling will prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the areas of employment, education, health care, inheritance, mobility, travel, and political and social participation.

In a press release issued last week by BDS, Pant, who's Nepal's first openly gay Member of Parliament and member of Communist Party of Nepal-United party, added that the legislature is expected to introduce non-discrimination provisions on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

He added that the court has ordered the government to set-up a seven-member committee to study same-sex partnership and marriage laws enacted in other countries and to recommend the implementation of same-sex partnership or marriage laws in Nepal.

Nepal abolished became a republic in May this year after the Nepal's newly elected leadership voted to end about 240 years of autocratic rule in the country. After a 10-year battle to overthrow the monarchy, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) currently leads a coalition government.

Nepal

Reader's Comments

1. 2008-11-25 00:36
thats absolutely ridiculous moron and foolish if considered gay as "3rd gender"
homosexual male is male
and homosexual male dont need any acknowledgement for our sexual preference (in sexual behaviour context)
back the definition of homosexuality itself...figure it out again please for ^&^(*&^*%*&% sake...
2. 2008-11-25 03:32
To clarify heimuk's comment the article is careful to state that gay and lesbian are NOT a third gender. While I am a gay man I am overjoyed that Nepal is moving towards such an inclusive acceptance of all its citizens. I could only hope that the gay/lesbian community could be as accepting. Lets send a message of overwhelming support for this fledging democracy!
3. 2008-11-25 07:31
I am not sure if I have read this article correctly ...the same article that was criculated before ...I hope the same rights are being accorded to gay male and female and NOT only metis otherwise this is a small victory which will give the hetero community an inaccurate view of the diversity within the gay community , that metis = gay when our family is much more diverse that that.
4. 2008-11-25 11:09
Wow! I have to say I'm impressed with this country which has just recently turned Communist/Maoist.

Amazing!
5. 2008-11-25 11:38
This is quite mind-boggling. Are identity cards meant to reflect biological sex or gender identity since it's clearly not the same thing? And if third gender is not referring to biological sex but gender identity, where does same-sex marriage fit in?
6. 2008-11-26 00:20
wow! impressive feat for such a new republic!
7. 2008-11-26 09:40
Good move. But wait ! Why a 3rd gender ? A gay can either be male or female. It's his/her sexual orientation ? Not his gender ???? HEllooooooo are we bluffing ourselves or we are being misled ????? Someone please correct me ?

Unless I am wrong , this 3rd gender is for the transexuals - males dressed as females. Then what about the real butch ones ???? 4th gender ???? I am simply confused ???
8. 2008-11-26 09:57
I thought the article well written and presented perfect clarity for me, it will be interesting to follow Nepal's progress, one that we in the 'west' could possibly learn from especially in USA & Australia things arn't presently so progressive or promicing on some levels...they did it their way...quite refreshing really
9. 2008-11-26 10:15
what about adopting kids there? would love to adopt one of those hunky gurka soldiers!
10. 2008-11-26 16:24
Great move , but hope this could be followed by other Asian Countries as well , specially to see if china also allowed would be a great move as well .

well done Nepal and Nepalis

11. 2008-11-26 22:52
i think "3rd gender" is just the literal translation of the word "homosexual" or more broadly, "LGBT" in nepal national language.

anyway, i wish the supreme court in my country would do the same too - or at least civil partnership will do.

but for now, ugh. the church interferes too much with the government. philippines... long way to go.

12. 2008-11-26 23:33
There are actually two separate issues being discussed here. One is about equal rights to all sexual minorities (including gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex, whatever), and decriminalisation of their relationships.

The other issue is to do just with the "third gender" that consists of a whole spectrum of people in between the two extremes of Male and Female. This third gender would include "intersex", for example, where the body could contain various proportions of male and female organs.

Gay and lesbian people would not necessarily fall under this third gender. It appears to be for those people who cannot, or do not wish to, identify themselves as either Male or Female.

As the article says, "...According to Pant, applicants just have to apply at the central district office, and medical tests are not required..."

It is of course to be hoped that the general public is able to distinguish between the gays and lesbians who identify themselves clearly as either male or female, on the one hand, and the "third gender" on the other.

I think it is truly amazing that this Maoist country has decided to go all the way like this. Good on you, Nepal! When it comes to commonsense you are truly a First World country.
13. 2008-11-27 12:54
i am pretty proud of what my country has done ! :)

but curious most international media hasnt picked up this news ...


14. 2008-12-01 02:31
WOW !! I think the guys from nepal R HOT !! signed , from boston USA :)
15. 2008-12-07 08:14
so now that they have acknowledged the transgendered as the 3rd gender, how far will they go to establish this acknowlegdement at the lowest levels of society? For instance, will public toilets come in male, female and transgendered?

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