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Formal recognition to third gender in Nepal

world Updated: Sep 18, 2008 19:50 IST

IANS
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A 21-year-old lesbian has become the first person in Nepal to be officially recognised as a third gender person under the Maoist-led new government, a move being hailed as a landmark for sexual minorities in a country still dominated by a strong feudal society.

Bishnu Adhikari, who was forced to leave her home in Pokhara town by outraged relatives and neighbours, on Wednesday became the first person in Nepal to be given an official identity card that described her sex as "third gender" instead of the usual male and female categories.

She was issued an official ID that gave her gender as "Third".

Naulo Bihani (New Dawn), a Nepali NGO that works for the rights of gays and lesbians in Kaski district in central Nepal, said Adhikari had applied for citizenship at the Kaski district administration office asking for an ID that would identify her as third gender.

Adhikari, a human rights officer employed by the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), the pioneer organisation in Nepal to champion the cause of gays and lesbians, was inspired to ask for a third gender ID after Nepal's first publicly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant visited Pokhara about 10 days ago.

During his visit, Pant, who is also the founder of the BDS, gave a public speech discussing the constitutional rights of third genders and encouraging them to demand a citizenship certificate that truly identified them.

The MP, who was nominated to the newly elected constituent assembly by a minor communist party that is a partner in the ruling coalition, said it would also be a test of the interim constitution promulgated after the pro-democracy movement of 2006 that ensured equality for every citizen.

Adhikari had a tough fight acquiring the ID she wanted.

Krishna Adhikari, regional coordinator at Naulo Bihani, said the officials first rejected her demand saying she looked exactly like a man and therefore should be issued an ID that described her as male.

However, after she consistently refused to accept it, saying that in view of the new changes that had electrified Nepal her request should also be heard, the officials went into a huddle among themselves and then finally relented.

Adhikari's fight was made easier by the Supreme Court of Nepal that in a landmark judgement last year said gays were "natural" people. It directed the government to remove all discrimination against the community and ensure for them the rights enjoyed by all other citizens.

Last year, Chanda Musalman, a gay man who became a transgender, dressing as a woman, wrested partial recognition for her community when she was given an ID that described her gender as "both male and female".