By RIO ROSE RIBAYA
As the original was published on 9 January 2015
Nepal has joined several countries that recognize the third gender, announcing the issuance of passports to sexual minorities by adding a third gender category.
Lok Bahadur, chief of Nepal’s passport department, confirmed the change in the regulations in issuing passports for the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens.
“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,” the official told Reuters.
The policy change came seven years after the Himalayan nation’s Supreme Court promulgated a ruling that ordered authorities to amend its laws in recognizing members of the third sex in 2007.
Nepalese gay rights activists from the leading gay rights group, Blue Diamond Society, welcomed the recognition of the third gender on passport, describing it as “progressive move.”
Blue Diamond Society chief Pinky Gurung expressed belief it would help tackle widespread discrimination against the country’s sexual minorities.
But Gurung still noted, in an interview with Reuters, the need for authorities to amend legislation, such as inheritance laws, which only award inheritance rights to either “sons or daughters.”
In 2006, Nepal overcame a decade of conflict against Maoist rebels that marked the start of the nation’s acknowledgement of the LGBT citizens’ rights.
Gay prides and beauty contests may have been held in Kathmandu but the conduct of same-sex marriages still remain unrecognized by law while gay sex remains illegal with a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment.
Aside from Nepal, Australia and New Zealand also allow their citizens to choose from three genders in their passports — male, female, or indeterminate, which is marked by an “x” in the passport.
Last year, India also recognized the third gender, which would apply to all identity documents including birth certificates, passports, and driving licenses.