Road clear for 3rd sex passports

Kathmandu (Pahichan) January 13 – The government has amended rules to ensure passports to third gender citizens specifying their sex as “other”. The second amendment to Passport Regulations (2010), however, does not specify whether to allot ‘O’ as in India or ‘X’ as in Australia and New Zealand to identify the third gender recipient.

“We will soon call a meeting of stakeholders to ascertain it. Accordingly, we will make changes in the software and start issuing passports,” said Lok Bahadur Thapa, director general of the Passport Department. So far, the passport application form and the Machine Readable Passport software recognise only “male” and “female”.

“This is a welcome move,” said Bhumika Shrestha, a third gender activist who lobbied hard for the provision on behalf of the transgender community. “It would be helpful if they list ‘O’ for identifying our sex as prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”

Several lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and inter-sex persons had asked the department to issue the travel document to them recognising the preferred gender. Officials had been answering that the current MRP regime does not recognise additional category besides “male” and “female”.

The department and third-gender activists held talks to seek a way out. Clause 5 of the amended regulation reads that if any applicant identifies their sex as “others” and produces supportive documents like citizenship recognising their sex, a passport will be issued as sought.

A Supreme Court verdict in June, 2013, also contributed to removing the barrier. The court had ordered the government to issue passports to the third gender persons by amending the regulations.