Social Science Baha

In the Name of Identity and Protection: Nepal as a Leader in Third Gender Human Rights

Kyle Knight

The human rights of people who do not identify within a male-female gender binary have been alternatively ignored or intensely policed by governments around the world. After a 2007 Supreme Court decision declared full legal recognition and rights for people who identify as not male, not female, but third gender, Nepal has emerged as a leader in the international LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights movement. But how has Nepal as a leader affected politics at home and internationally? Falling in line with the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Nepal’s laws are the most progressive in the world: in order to receive full legal recognition and claim rights, citizens need only to self-identify as third gender. The issuance of government documents listing people as third gender reaffirms that recognition before the law in self-identified gender is not only a possibility, but perhaps the most protective measure available – preventing harassment, discrimination, and social exclusion. This paper discusses the legal mandate set forth in the Supreme Court decision in Pant v. Nepal, the subsequent implementation of the decision, and how Nepal’s experience with the mechanics of implementing a third gender might inform human rights advocacy for transgender, third gender, and gender-variant people around the world.