Citizenship bill dismays LGBTI community

Kathmandu (Pahichan) March 19 – Members of sexual and gender minority now need to present a proof of sex change if they want to change their gender identity in citizenship card or get new one.

The draft of the bill to amend the Citizenship Act which is being discussed in State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of Parliament has made it mandatory to present recommendation of doctors.  Members of the LGBT community say the new provision is wrong and is an unnecessary burden on them and affects LGBTI movement.

The provisions of providing citizenship as per the sex identification have been arranged in section 8 of draft law. The subsection 1 of section 8 states about providing citizenship under the name of mother and father. In the sub-section (2) there was the provisions of male, female and others (O) but there is a need of disclosing gender identity.

In the case of sexual and gender minority, it has been made mandatory to introduce medical proofs of third gender. According to this provisions, members of sexual and gender minority should present medical proof to get citizenship as per their identity and wishes. Earlier, there were voices that this issue should be settled after the close study of court verdict and report submitted by committee formed as per court verdict.

However, Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai insisted that medical proof should be presented to receive citizenship. Lawmaker Ram Shash Prasad Yadav opined that this issue should be settled after the study of Supreme Court order. Nirmala Adhikari, Joint Secretary at Ministry of Law said she was unaware about the submission of report by committee formed as per court order.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in 2007, which said citizens were entitled to select their gender identity based on “self-determination”, paved the way for people to choose “others” as their sex in government-issued identification cards. The SC also directed government to form a committee to suggest ways to legalize same-sex marriage in Nepal. The committee submitted its report three years ago which is gathering dust at Ministry. Later, district administration offices stated that they cannot provide citizenship without medical proof. Following the complaints, Ministry of Home Affairs issued a circular directing to provide citizenship to their community as per their gender identity.

In the meeting, Home Secretary Rai informed that they are providing citizenship to this community under (Other) category. He said provisions of introducing proof has been arranged to provide citizenship as per gender identity beyond O category. After lawmaker asked about the SC verdict, Rai said, “Such provision has been made to make the provision of providing citizenship more systematic,” Rai said.

Rajendra Shrestha from the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal is among the handful of lawmakers who have vehemently objected to the new provision which would make things difficult for sexual minorities. Shrestha proposed amendments to the current draft of the bill which would allow people to change their names and sex on the citizenship card depending on how they want to identify themselves as. However, some lawmakers from Nepal Communist Party(NCP) stood against the proposal of Shrestha.