Nepal’s first transgender passport issued to rights activist

Kathmandu, Aug. 11 (ANI): In what signals a long-overdue respect for the country’s transgender community, activist Monica Shahi has made history as Nepal’s first citizen to carry a passport bearing a third gender.

Nepal moved towards recognizing a third gender when the Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that individuals should have their gender legally recognized based on “self-feeling” and that they should not have to limit themselves to “female” or “male.”

Since then, activists have fought successfully to have a third category added to citizenship documents, public bathrooms, and even the federal census. For Shahi, this means her passport is marked “O” for “other” rather than the traditional “F” for “female” or “M” for “male.”

Only a limited number of countries recognize more than “male” and “female” on travel documents, which could pose challenges for people like Shahi as they travel.

However an increasing number of governments are beginning to acknowledge that legal recognition – including of identities outside the male-female binary – can be, and should be, acknowledged on documents.

The United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism argued that “measures that involve increased travel document security, such as stricter procedures for issuing, changing and verifying identity documents, risk unduly penalizing transgender persons whose personal appearance and data are subject to change.”

At least seven countries – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Malta, New Zealand, and Australia – now legally recognize more than two genders in some way. (ANI)

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