In April this year, Dilu Budhuja, a resident of Myagdi district in Nepal, hit the headlines for getting a citizenship card as a third gender.
It recognised that the 35-year-old who was born a female and grew up as a male belonged to neither of these genders.
It was a significant development for sexual minorities in the country who face discrimination despite a 2007 ruling by Nepal’s Supreme Court that guaranteed equal rights to all sections irrespective of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Budhuja is the second third gender after Bishnu Adhikari who got his ‘special’ citizenship card in 2007 from the Kaski district administration to get recognized in a separate category. The card is important as it is needed to open bank accounts or own property.
But not all third gendered citizens of Nepal are getting the citizenship card as a routine practice. Officials in most districts still refuse to issue citizenship cards to them citing technical difficulties.
Not good news in a year when Nepal is conducting a census that will enumerate Budhuja, Adhikari and others like them under a category called ‘third gender’. The details of how many such citizens are there will be available in October when the census results are made public.
This week, Budhuja hit the headlines again. Encouraged after getting the citizenship card, he had applied for a passport. But the passport office refused to issue the document stating that the software can’t recognize third gender as a separate category.
With gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant taking up cudgel for Budhuja, the matter soon reached the corridors of power. But it came to light that apart from correcting the software, amendments would have to be made to the existing Citizenship Act to sort out the problem.
As of now, the Citizenship Act has no provision to issue passports to anyone as third gender. The slow progress of legislative process in Nepal that has delayed promulgation of a new constitution means amendment to the Citizenship Act may take years.
In the meantime, Budhuja has approached the Supreme Court seeking intervention. He filed a writ demanding issuance of passport as a third gender and named the Prime Minister, council of minister and the foreign affairs ministry as defendants.
All eyes are on the Supreme Court now.