Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics has given official recognition to LGB and transgender people. This is being hailed as a bold move and key victory for equality given that the country only decriminalised gay relationships in 2007.
Data was collected for the first time on the ‘third gender’ in this year’s Nepalese census, which was gathered from 5.6 million households across the country.
Bikash Bista, a spokesman for the statistics bureau, said the new category was an attempt to engage the inhabitants of an essentially conservative country to open up to different points of view.
But the fight to win recognition in the state for gender minorities, gay men and lesbians has been hard-won.
Sunil Pant, activist and founder of LGBT rights organisation Blue Diamond Society said: “We had to put in a lot of pressure to have the third gender counted in the census.
“It was only after we said that we would go to court that the officials agreed to include the third gender as a category.”
The landmark 2007 Supreme Court ruling that instructed Nepal to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and decriminalise “unnatural sex” was “an inspiration” said Mr Pant.
The ruling also decreed that citizenship certificates (which work as national identity papers) must clearly indicate an individual’s choice of gender identity.
The government is also working on changing a list of discriminatory laws so that gender minorities can enjoy the same rights as others, including inheritance rights.
However, same-sex marriage remains a contentious issue – there are currently no countries in south Asia where it is legal. The step forward in recognition of gender identity was though, Mr Pant said, “encouraging”.