09 Aug 2011
Efforts to boost 'Third Gender' rights in Nepal
On 21 December 2007, the Supreme Court of Nepal rendered a landmark decision in ordering the Government to amend all discriminatory laws against LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) and formally recognize the LGBTI as ‘third gender’ in accordance with their sexual and gender identities.
The objective of this decision was to protect the rights of these individuals and communities on an equal footing with heterosexual citizens and most importantly extend all available state services to LGBTI with specific reference to citizenship certificates - a prerequisite for accessing many other state services and rights!
UNDP Nepal has been managing HIV and AIDS programming at the national level by channeling two big funds i.e. the global fund round 7 grant and DFID funding. The LGBTI community is supported particularly because this sexual minority is more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV.
The head of DFID (former) in Nepal Sarah Sanyahumbi said, “DFID’s programme in Nepal is going to increase dramatically in the next 4 years and health is going to remain a major priority ensuring that all the minority groups have access to health facilities. We want to ensure that HIV AIDS support is taken on board by the Government, we have been supporting primarily through UNDP so far. But we see it as a key element of the Government’s health provision so we want to make sure that the Government takes that on in full with donor support and UK certainly will continue that support.”
UNDP was the first international entity to extend support to the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) in social mobilization, and HIV and STI intervention which includesprevention, VCT, treatment services, peer education, outreach, behaviour change communication (BCC)and counselling services in 14 districts of Nepal.
Efforts are also underway for the amendment of discriminatory laws and policies and the implementation of the 2007 decision of the Supreme Court of Nepal.
UNDP Country Director for Nepal, Shoko Noda says, “Nepal is a pioneer in South Asia for making this landmark decision however the challenge now is to fully implement it in action.”
Besides, UNDP in Nepal has been working closely with the National Association of PLHIV Nepal (NAP+N)—working for the advocacy on rights of People Living With HIV, Recovering Nepal (RN)— working on HIV advocacy for the rights of IDUs, Nepal HIV AIDS Alliance (NEHA)— working for advocacy on mainstreaming HIV/AIDS in multiple sectors and Jagriti Mahila Samuha (JMS)— working for advocacy on the rights of female sex workers.
As a result of all the efforts, the Government of Nepal has extended some degree of legal protection and financial support for LGBTI issues. With rising advocacy and awareness, recently the Central Bureau of Statistics listed ‘third gender’ in its census form, and the Election Commission included similar wording in the voter registration forms.
There has been an increased social acceptance, reduction in harassment by the authorities/police; and legal recognition of their identity. The non-governmental and private actors, including the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal and the Nepal Investment Bank have reoriented institutional policies to include, ‘others’ as a gender.
Further, LGBTI issues are being taught within State universities while regular sympathetic media and television coverage has served to sensitize the public at large.