Nepal will count a third gender in its next population census, counting LGBT people as a minority group that can be allocated government jobs and education for the first time in the nation’s history.
For a long time, the LGBT community in the Himalayan nation has demanded the national census counts sexual minorities. The census is taken every 10 years.
Nepal’s laws prescribe special quotas for minorities in workplaces, schools and colleges, and access to discounted healthcare, but LGBT people say the absence of census data omits them from such programmes.
Dhundi Raj Lamichane, an official at Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics, said Thursday the national census is planned for summer of 2021 but a trial will be done next month in selected districts.
Citizens will be able to identify themselves as male, female or other gender.
Though the change is specific to gender rather than any person’s sexual identity, activists welcomed it as increasing the visibility of the LGBT community.
They estimate about 900,000 of Nepal’s 29 million people are LGBT.
‘This is a big step in our campaign. This will help establish our identity as a minority group in Nepal,’ said Sarita K.C. of Mitini Nepal.
Nepal has long been a beacon of hope for LGBT people, particularly in Asia.
A 2007 Supreme Court ruling paved the way for greater rights for LGBT people in the country, and ordered the government to legally recognise a third gender.
It also ruled that the government should remove any laws that unfairly discriminate against LGBT people and form a committee to study the legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
In response to this ruling, the government identified over 100 laws that discriminated against such groups.
In 2015, Nepal become the tenth country to enshrine LGBT rights in its constitution, outlawing discrimination on such grounds.
Citizenship certificates and passports now offer a ‘non-male, non-female’ option in the gender category.
In Britain, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) intends to include a question on gender identity in the 2021 census.
Currently, rough calculations by the government estimate that anywhere between 0.9% and 5.5% of people in Britain are not heterosexual.
Further estimates suggest that anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 people identify as transgender.
The LGBT charity Stonewall have backed the inclusion of such a question in the British census.
‘Accurate population data on sexual orientation and gender identity allows organisations to develop services and initiatives which are targeted to the needs of their LGBT employees and/or service-users and local communities,’ the charity said in a statement.
In a 2019 census rehearsal by the ONS, the voluntary question posed to participants was: ‘Is your gender the same as the sex you were registered at birth?’
They were asked to select either yes or no, and to write in their gender.