The Nepalese government is to issue passports with a third gender option for citizens who do not identify as male or female.

The country join neighbour India as one of the few countries that allow for a gender other than male or female to be listed in identity documents. Australia and New Zealand also allow people to be listed as “x” in their passports.

Chief of the passport department, Lok Bahadur Thapa, told Reuters: “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.”

Homosexuality was legalised in Nepal in 2007 and it looks to be progressing towards greater rights for sexual minorities as the country prepares its first constitution since the end of the monarchy in 2008. Activists say that discrimination against LGBT people is still widespread, but hope that this move will be a positive step forward.

Leading LGBT rights activist Pinky Gurung said: “It is a very progressive move, and we welcome it.”