Nepal has just joined Australia and New Zealand in the issuing of third gender – or gender ‘x’ – passports. Manoj Shahi, who now identifies as Monica Shahi, was the first Nepalese citizen to receive such a passport. This move is pursuant to the country’s 2007 Supreme Court ruling that authorities must amend legislation to include a third gender. Already in 2011, Nepal added third gender categories to its census and citizenship cards. Other Asian countries seem to be warming up to the concept of the third gender category as well, with both India and Pakistan now allowing people who identify as being of indeterminate gender to do so formally.
In January, Lok Bahadur Thapa, chief of the government’s passport department announced: “We have changed the passport regulations and will add a third category of gender for those people who do not want to be identified as male or female”. The country is known in the LGBT activist community as one of the most progressive on LGBT rights. Pinky Gurung, leading LGBT rights activist and chairperson of the Blue Diamond Society commented: “It’s a very progressive move, and we welcome it. It’s great that the other category in citizenship has been extended to passport. This is a historic moment.”