Nepal formally recognises “third gender”.

// 22 September 2008

A 21-year-old lesbian has become the first person to be officially recognised as “third gender” since the country passed laws granting “sexual minorities” the same rights as heterosexuals in December of last year:

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.

…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.

The term “third gender” is used in Nepal to refer to those who are neither heterosexual nor transgendered, and while one could argue that this all-encompassing term is problematic insofar as it blurs the distinction between sexuality and gender, Adhikari’s success in being officially recognised as third gender is a sign of positive change in a country where traditional conservatism is being shaken up by political developments including the abolition of the monarchy and the increased dominance of the Maoist party, who claim to represent poor and minority groups.

And it certainly puts the UK to shame: see Helen’s recent post for details on how to help lobby for legal recognition of identities outside the gender binary over here.

Comments From You

miriam // Posted 22 September 2008 at 9:36 pm

This strikes me as a good solution, rather than having lots of splinter groups fighting for rights and risking beating one another up – c.f. the transsexuals being barred from the appropriate loos at Pride.

Anitha // Posted 23 September 2008 at 6:57 am

I am not sure I understand this. Why are lesbians/homosexuals the third gender? Homosexuals do not have a gender identity problem I thought. I thought the problem was with people accepting/recognising their sexual preferences. Aren’t transsexuals the third gender? Is it the same thing?

polly styrene // Posted 23 September 2008 at 3:25 pm

The word that means the opposite of heterosexual in the English Language is homosexual. Not transgendered. As Anitha correctly states, being gay or lesbian is nothing to do with gender.

Laura // Posted 24 September 2008 at 5:22 pm

polly, Anitha, I agree it seems strange to use “third gender” to refer to homosexuals within the context of our culture and understanding of the word. But it appears that in Nepal, both transgendered and homosexual people have found the creation of this third identity useful in furthering their rights, and that’s a positive thing in my eyes. I imagine the term itself may also lose / gain something in translation which alters its meaning for English speakers.

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