Kathmandu/Pahichan – Nepalese lawmakers have approved the first LGBTI protections in the country’s constitution as they finally act to pass the new constitution after years of political gridlock.
Sexual minorities and transgender issues are addressed in several of the articles of Nepal’s new constitution which lawmakers are voting on article by article to approve.
Article 12 of the new constitution states that people have the right to have citizenship ID that reflects their preferred gender.
Article 18 covers rights to equality and states that the State will not ‘discriminate [against] any citizens based on origin, religion, race, caste, tribe, gender, language or ideological conviction or any other status.’
Article 18 also lists LGBTI people among disadvantaged groups that are recognized by the constitution.
‘Nothing shall be deemed to prevent the making of special provisions by law for the protection, empowerment or advancement of the interests of socially and culturally disadvantaged women, Dalits, indigenous peoples, tribes, Madhesi, Tharu, Muslim, ethnic minorities, backward classes, minorities, marginalized, farmers, workers, youth, children, senior citizens, gender and sexual minorities, handicapped persons, pregnant persons, disabled or helpless, people of backward regions and economically disadvantaged citizens,’ the new constitution states.
Article 18 also replaces language in the old constitution that references ‘male and female’ and ‘son or daughter’ with gender neutral terminology.
Article 42 of the new constitution lists ‘gender and sexual minorities,’ among groups that will have right to participate in state mechanisms and public services based on the ‘principle of inclusion.’
These articles make Nepal one of the only countries in the Asian region to provide legislative protection for LGBTI people against discrimination and only South Africa and Fiji precede Nepal in providing constitutional guarantees for LGBTI rights.
Veteran Nepalese LGBTI rights activist and lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant called the new constitutional inclusions ‘extremely good news’ for LGBTI people in Nepal. ‘This ensures LGBTIs right to participation,’ he said.
However it remains to be seen whether the new constitution will include some sort of civil partnership or marriage rights for same-sex couples in line with the Nepali Supreme Court’s 2008 order that the government provide them with legal recognition and that would be a definite first for Asia.