Alex Blaze

Nepal introduces third gender in census

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 10, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: identity, india, nepal, pakistan, sunil panta, third gender, transgender, US Census

After a supreme court ruling requiring the government to protect the rights of LGBT people, this year's census in Nepal will include a third gender category:

nepal.jpgNepal's national census will include a new category for transgender people when counting begins in May, the government said Sunday, in a move welcomed by equality activists.

"Earlier, we had only two categories, men and women. But in the upcoming census, we are including a 'third gender' category," said Bikash Bista, director of the Central Bureau of Statistics in Kathmandu.[...]

Sunil Babu Panta, Nepal's first openly gay parliamentarian, who runs the Blue Diamond Society pressure group, said that the transgender community was delighted by the decision.

"This shows that the government has started to recognise them. I hope this will help to ensure their rights," he said.

The AFP report doesn't specify how the third gender category will be implemented, whether it'll be "O" for "Other" like voter registration in India or Pakistan creating a "Hijra" category for national ID cards. But the Deccan Herald implies that it's not just trans people, but also gays and lesbians, who are identifying as third gender:

Due to lack of awareness and fear of social exclusion many gays and lesbians may not express their real sexual identity, he pointed out.The number of sexual minorities is estimated to be more than two million, said Panta, who heads Blue Diamond Society dedicated to the cause of lesbian and gay he said adding but the correct picture may not come out due to the conservative nature of the society.

But only 350,000 third sex people including 50,000 gays and lesbians have so far been identified, according to Panta.

The census will be completed within five months, according to the officials. Nepal conducts population census in every 10 years and the latest estimate puts the population of the country at 26 million.

These are the only two reports I could find on the topic, and it doesn't seem like the full story.

It's good to see that there are cultures that are moving beyond the binary. Perhaps that's not a good idea for America, but perhaps we could just do away with gender altogether when it comes to official documentation.

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My question in these cases is always whether there will be an impact on people born transsexual who have transitioned. I'm not sure if that's a question that applies to Nepal, but maybe. And it applies in general. I earned my sex marker. I'm not giving it up! If others want to or want to go "other," fine with me.

Yeah, I don't think we're going to find the answer to that question soon.

In Hindu thought, the terms "men" and "women" are limited to only those who heterosexually make babies. All gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, genderqueer, asexual, celibate, and childfree people are then classified as "third gender." See . "[Women] who did not produce children were known as nastriya or 'not female.'"

This is so specific to the Hindu paradigm that it could scarcely be applied elsewhere. At first glance it's a boon to genderqueer people. It kind of leaves the rest of the LGBT world out in the cold, though. How many gay men would like to be told they're not men? How many lesbians would like to be told they're not women? Similarly for bi people. For binary transsexual people, it would be absolutely disastrous--the destruction of all they've struggled for. That article also perpetuates the stereotype of bisexuals as sex-crazed horndogs who will fuck anything that moves.

I'm for anything that would make things easier on genderqueer people, who are totally left out in the cold by our current system. However, the Hindu paradigm of third gender is not the answer. It actually enforces an extremely heteronormative, even patriarchal set of values by centering and privileging heterosexual baby-making to an extent that would make the Pope blush. It lumps all LGBT and non-procreative people into a subaltern ghetto.

I hope we find a way to get justice and equal rights for genderqueer people without destroying the rights of binary-identified LGBT people. This just ain't it. Why should it be so hard to have a system that gives justice and equal rights to everyone alike?