Make Your Voice Count


The intricacy of legal gender recognition in Nepal

By Rukshana Newa – Wednesday, January 15, 2020

From national to global headlines and leads, Nepal is often potrayed as a one of the progressive countries to recognise rights of transgender, third gender and non-binary people. Homosexuality was never criminalized, transgender people have rights, the constitution metions ‘gender and sexual minorities’ as one of the marginalized groups of the population. These are some of the ways Nepal is also perceived as a queer friendly country. [1] [2] [3] I spent most of my teenage life thinking this way, until I had to deal with the superfluous complicated institutional system of the country, and all my notions got shattered under the burden of a quaint system. Compared to other countries, in South Asia, Nepal has systems in place and a ‘comparatively’ safer legal ambience for queer people. Criminalization was never in place and that there’s been several Supreme Court verdicts favouring the rights of queer people. The phrase ‘gender and sexual minorities’ was subsequently inscribed in the constitution. These are some instances that draw a narrative of Nepal’s portrayal as a heaven for queer people. While those instances are definitely the facts, the impression about queer rights in Nepal in these narratives do not give a picture about the complex reality in place that many queer people suffer to navigate. Before we begin, let’s take a crash course of the gender identity recognition movement’s history in Nepal. In 2007, for the first time the Supreme Court of Nepal ruled that a ‘third gender option’ be added;  discriminatory and exclusionary laws against queer people be repealed and a committee be formed to study ‘same-sex marriage’. The court also ruled the government should implement the finds of the study. In around a decade several other Supreme Court verdicts regarding the rights of consenting adults to live together (regardless of what gender they both are); allowing foreign nationals who got married with Nepali citizenship (of the same gender) to get a spousal visa; ruling gender identity to be self-determined and allowing change of gender markers on citizenship documents already acquired. While these verdicts were implemented, the Ministry of Home Affairs chose ‘Others’ for a new gender marker alongside Male and Female. The implementation began from the citizenship documents and went on to passports, sim cards, and many other settings where someone had to mention their gender. [4] Now let’s throw light on reality. Despite that the constitution mentions ‘gender and sexual minorities’ as a disadvantaged group, this group receives no attention to what it was constitutionally meant; such as disadvantaged groups have right to get separate acts and laws for their betterment, have right to inclusive representation, cannot be missed in the formulation of any law and order. It is not completly true that Nepal has a law that recognizes transgender and non-binary people. As soon as the court made the order about a new gender option, some individuals filed an application at their respective District Administration Office to acquire their citizenship. [5] It was the time when the citizenship certificates were handwritten. The first people to apply for citizenship under the new gender marker were mentioned as ‘third’. When Nepal started printing citizenship certificates digitally, the term ‘Others’ was chosen as a gender marker alongside Male and Female. The term ‘Others’ itself is a derogatory term and it is othering individuals who do not fit into the gender norms of society. Moreover, it is still ambiguous what range of gender identities this option covers. The most prominent interpretation is that it refers to people who identify as third gender. However, it isn’t completely accurate because binary identifying transgender people as well as people with intersex variations have also been provided with citizenship under this gender category. The Ministry of Home Affairs has another horrendous interpretation of the ‘Other’ gender marker. A directive on providing citizenship to sexual and gender minorities under the other gender category (2012) states that ‘other gender’ means, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex-ed people. The most important problem in this is that the ministry has lumped sex, gender identity and sexual orientation into the same box when they are three different aspects of a person. Moreover, the text in Nepali has the term ‘third gender’ while its English translation has been placed as ‘transgender’. [6] Sex characteristics are determined by person’s genitila and chromosomes. Gender identity is determined by a person’s internal sense of being man, woman, neither or both. Sexual orientation is determined by a person’s sexual and romantic attraction to someone else. As mentioned in the directive Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual are sexual orientations and not gender identity. ‘Inter-sexed’ is an outdated vocabulary to refer intersex people and it is a sex characteristic. Intersex people have different gender identities. Similarly, third gender in concepts of South Asian Hindu and Muslim communities is that of a person who is neither a man nor a woman; while transgender people are those individuals who identify with gender that does not align their sex assigned at birth. Transgender men identify as men and transgender women identify as women, and do fall under the man and woman sprectrum respectively. The directive portrays a sense of insecurity amongst the government officials as it provisions that people registered under ‘other gender category’ shall be recorded in a separate document which will be reviewed periodically. Along with the problematic nature of this directive, the conversation completely ignores binary identifying transgender individuals and non-binary gender identities as genderfluid, gender non-conforming, and so on. Beginning from an insensitive nomenclature, to ambiguous and misleading definitions that are in place, the implementation is even more complicated. Most of the people who implement these laws do not understand the concept of SOGIE (Sexual orientation, Gender identity and Sex characteristics). Most of them assume that the ‘other gender’ means an ‘intersex person’ and therefore an application for citizenship in the ‘O category’ means they’d want to know why your birth certificate and school certificates mention you as either M or F. To apply for a citizenship certificate one needs to present their birth certificate and school certificates. For transgender, third gender and non-binary people they have their sex recorded either as Male or as Female in their birth certificates and continue with the same in school. It differs from person to person, at what age they realise their gender identity and come out to people. In such case, even if an individual went to amend their birth certificate and school certificates to reflect their gender identity, there is no provision for such. The Supreme Court verdict only speaks for citizenship. Despite the Supreme Court ruling gender identity to be self-determined, it hasn’t convinced people in the implementation. While some people manage to get their citizenship certificate recorded under the O gender marker, changing one’s legal name is near to unobtainable. In many cases, people in the implementation interpret the Supreme Court’s verdict of allowing change in gender marker to include their names that ‘name’ is an integral part of gender identity and the society of Nepal has names that reflect gender. However, many people in the implementation will not agree for a name change because ‘a name change’ hasn’t been specifically specified. With the aforementioned conversation being to people who haven’t acquired a Nepali citizenship in their life, for those individuals who already have and want to amend it, have almost no way to sort it out. Most of the people in power as implentors do not understand the queer diversity. Now that there is an option called ‘Other gender’, how would an other gender person be referred ? Mr. or Ms. ? Son of or daughter of ? Well, the government of Nepal opted for cancelling all the gendered vocabulary and replacing it with the term ‘others’. For instance, if a person with M gender marker has their certificate saying, “Mr. Abc, the son of xyz and zyx has passed Grade 10 examinations. He scored 90% marks in his terms” and a person with F gender marker has their certificate saying, “Ms. Abc, the daughter of xyz and zyx has passed Grade 10 examinations. She scored 90% marks in her terms”, a person with O gender marker will have their certificate as, “Others Abc, the others of xyz and zyx has passed Grade 10 examinations. Others scored 90% marks in others terms.” [7] This is one of the worst examples of dehumanization, lack of knowledge and sheer insensitivity. The introduction to ‘other gender category’ in citizenship necessarily did not mandate or guarantee the same rights in all other sectors and institutions of the country.  In 2012, the ‘O’ gender marker was added to the passport in a five year gap after it was possible in the citizenship. Those who had the citizenship as ‘others’ never got to travel abroad during the period. However, till today the computers in the immigration desk at Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal cannot read Nepali passports with the ‘O’ gender marker. Such barriers not only exist in the passport different sectors due to lack of the gender option, but holding a citizenship with ‘O gender marker’ creates hurdles for equal access in many sectors such as employment, education, health, etc. The provisions of legal gender identity recognition in any of the legal documents apart from citizenship and passport, such as papers of house ownership, educational certificates, birth certificate, etc do not have any provisions in this regard. In fact, it again might depend on the interpretation of the person who is implementing. Nepal has very conservative, traditional and protectionist laws in place. All the details in whatever legal documents one holds,  should match and even a minor spelling error will cause a lot of trouble to people. Neither can you change any of your legal documents prior to applying for citizenship certificate so that you align all of them with your gender identity, nor can you do it later gaining citizenship based on your gender identity. Most people get stuck with this, and more complications develop. Meanwhile, there is a provision for individuals who have two different names in different legal papers of their to be certified by their ward office ( a local government body ) as the both names are of the same individual, that certificate of ward, but also which can be rejected or still be invalid in certain institutions. Contributing to all the issues, the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of Federal parliament of Nepal has proposed a citizenship bill that will take legal gender identity recognition into further regression, allowing only ‘third gender people’ to have citizenship certificate after ‘showing  medical evidence’. [8] [9] The romanticized picture of Nepal being a country respecting rights of transgender, third gender and non-binary people is a veneer glimpse of the country. In reality transgender, third gender and non-binary people not only face challenges and discrimination in society, but are also tormented by labyrinthine laws and provisions.

  1. How Did Nepal Become a Global LGBT Rights Beacon? :
  2. Nepal: Asia’s Most Gay-Friendly Country? :
  3. Nepal is one of the most forward-thinking countries in the world for rights for transgender people
  4. निर्णय नं. ७९५८ – उत्प्रेषण, परमादेश, प्रतिषेध लगायत जो चाहिने आज्ञा आदेश वा पुर्जी जारी
  5. In Nepal, people apply for a citizenship certificate at the age of 16. The provisions with Nepali citizenship can be read here :
  6. यौनिक तथा लैङ्गिक अल्पसङ्ख्यक समुदायको व्यक्तिहरूलाई लिङ्गको महलमा ‘अन्य’ जनाई नागरिकता जारी गर्ने सम्बन्धी निर्देशिका, २०६९
  7. Scroll to the section “Nepal Era 1139/8/30 (2 July 2019)”
  8. Citizenship bill of Nepal to retrogress legal gender recognition
  9. Proposed citizenship bill

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Advocacy and Network Engagement Officer

Karon was one of the founding members of the national YKP network in Nepal. In 2016, one child care home (CLHIV and CABA) was supported solely by Karon through fundraising, collaborations with corporations and celebrities. In India, she actively advocated to CCM India, concerned stakeholders, to incorporate YKP and YPLHIV’s agenda during the C19RM country proposal submission process and High Level Meeting. She is a Youth Steering Member of #GenEndIt and the Focal Point for Youth LEAD. SRHR and HIV have been her primary focus areas since 2010, especially for young people on different platforms of Sub-national, National, Regional and Global.

Aside from being YVC’s Advocacy and Network Engagement Officer, Karon is also currently working on her thesis to complete her Master in Arts of Sociology.


Social Media Officer

Jan Ella is currently taking up her undergraduate studies at the University of the Philippines Visayas and has been a consistent academic awardee since 2019. She is involved in various organizations such as the Catalyst UPV as the Volunteer Director in 2021, former Publications Committee Head for UP Lipad and former member of Iloilo Pride Team.


He/Him, They/Them
Deputy Executive Director

Mx. Toni graduated with a bachelor’s degree of secondary education majoring in English at the Capiz State University back in 2021. Aside from this, they sought out other educational opportunities such as Advocacy and Project Management at the Women Deliver Digital University (2015), International Women’s Health and Human Rights at Stanford University (2014), and Global Health and Humanitarianism at the University of Manchester (2013).

An advocate of many causes, they are members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, and Y-PEER Pilipinas, founder of the Y-Cap for SRHR, founder of United Colours of CapSU, and Alumnus of Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Back in 2018, they were awarded as the SDG 5 Youth Champion due to the amiable service they have rendered for gender equality.


Finance Manager

Johnmel M. Estimar is the founder and senior adviser of La Villa Pride, a grassroots-level organization for LGBTQI in Villa, Iloilo. They are also a member of the Iloilo Pride team, a Community Based Screening motivator for HIV and an LGBTQI Rights Activist. Miles, as they like to be called, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University-Molo, Inc. They also hold an Associate Degree in Cruise Ship Management in the same University.

They have ample experience in clerk and accounting work for nine years from their previous employer, they are currently employed with Youth Voices Count as Finance Manager since 2019.


Sri Lanka
Project Manager

Tharindi is currently a feminist activist and researcher based in Sri Lanka, and has worked with the Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka (YANSL). They are a trainer on advocating for comprehensive sexuality education and providing knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) where they actively advocate for safe abortion and bodily autonomy for women.

One of Tharindi’s brainchild initiatives is an Instagram page which mainly focuses on the process of reaching out to queer women in Sri Lanka, a platform that helps in providing them visibility and strategy direction on programming through social media and other means.

They have completed their Bachelors (BA Honors) in English and Linguistics at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.


Marshall Islands
He/Him, They/Them
Project Officer for IGNITE! Empowerment Grants Program

Having done some activism for the Marshall Islands both locally and regionally with climate change, youth empowerment, LGBTQI rights, and nuclear injustice, Nenol takes pride in being an advocate for the causes he is passionate in, being a part of Youth Voices Count and taking a step in amplifying young LGBTQI+ voices. This also inspired him to co-found the first Marshallese LGBTQI Youth Support called Brighten the Rainbow. He is featured in “We Have a Dream” which is a collection of stories from young leaders around the world.


Project Officer

Ronan passed the Philippines nursing licensure exam in 2022 immediately after graduating his Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of San Agustin. While juggling his academics, he was elected governor of his college’s student council (Nursing Student Council) in 2021 and board member in 2019 where he was awarded the leadership award and Agustino para sa Tao award due to his excellence in service. He is also a certified Safety Officer (SO1) after completing his training.

He is currently a dialysis nurse in training. He handles the Intersex projects of YVC.


Admin Manager

An advocate at heart, Louela is a part of several youth-led organizations in the Philippines with various advocacies ranging from climate justice, environmental protection, gender equality, human rights, SRHR, mental health prioritization, youth empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness. She is currently the Interim Chairperson of Iloilo Pride Team after serving the organization for 4 years as the Admin Officer, Executive Secretary at Proyekto Philippines, Member of Team Dugong Bughaw, and more.

She graduated as Summa Cum Laude at West Visayas State University majoring in English Language Studies and is currently taking up her Masters in English Language Studies at the same institution. During her stay at the university, she served as the Vice Chairperson at the University Student Council and Federated Student Council where she organized programs and initiatives that advocated for student involvement in societal causes and being the voice of the students that lobbies their concerns to the administration.

In July 2022, she was awarded by JCI Regatta as one of the Top Outstanding Students in Iloilo and a Top Circle Awardee which is the most prestigious recognition given by the award-giving body.


Legal Counsel

She is a graduate of AB Political Science from West Visayas State University (WVSU), in Iloilo City. In her days in college, she was the founding Prime Minister of WVSU Debate Circle, the ROTC Corps Commander and later a Volunteer Instructor in the Air Force Reserve Command. When she ran for the first time in their University Student Council, she was elected number one councilor. Her interest in leadership grew when she joined the 10th National Youth Parliament, organized by the National Youth Commission in 2014, where she later on became the Regional Convener for Western Visayas.

She then pursued her studies to take up law in San Beda University in Mendiola, Manila. As a law student, she was still active in student organizations: She joined moot court competitions, she served as layout artist in 2 of San Beda Law’s Official Publications: The Barrister and San Beda Law Journal. In her last year in law school, she was the President of San Beda Law Human Rights Advocate (HRA), where she was later conferred Leadership Award by the Association of Law Students of the Philippines (ALSP) and her organization, HRA was awarded top advocacy organization.

She passed the 2019 Bar Examinations and became a full-fledged lawyer by 2020.

She worked as Associate of Javier Santiago Torres & Panghulan Law Offices. She now runs her own RLB Law Office as a solo practitioner and serves as Notary Public for and in Quezon City. She serves as legal consultant to MSMEs and Non-profit organizations. At present, she is the Vice President for Communications of the National Society of Parliamentarians, Inc., the Chief Legislative Staff of Councilor Quin Cruz of Pasig City Council and part-time law instructor in Malayan Colleges Laguna – a Mapua School. Interestingly, she is the creator and blogger of The Young Lawyer PH. Recently, she served as Resident Parliamentarian during the Bangsamoro Youth Parliament held last Nov. 7-11, 2022 at Cotabato City.

A lawyer by profession and an artist by heart.


Accounting Associate

Marion graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting Technology which has made her suitable for being the Accounting Associate of Youth Voices Count. She lists watching movies as one of her hobbies that helps her wind down during her leisure time.


Project Finance Officer

Je-ann is the current Project Finance Officer under the Finance Department. She graduated from the University of San Agustin with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major
in Marketing Management.

Her involvement in her University’s Little Theater organization led her to find an interest in theater, films and the arts. Aside from theater arts, she also partakes in the company’s production work including stage management and most notably, heading the organization’s marketing team.


Graphic Designer

Currently, Nico is a college student studying in the Philippines and is simultaneously working for Youth Voices Count as one of the graphic designers for the organization. He lists producing the brand logo and look of HRPlus Asia as one of his significant achievements. His interests in literature and creating films have also honed and continued to improve his skills in graphic designing.


Corporate Treasurer

Heart is currently taking up her undergraduate at West Visayas State University with a Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in Social Studies. At her third year in the university, she co-founded the first and only student-led organization towards gender-sensitive, responsive, and progressive aims known as DUAG-WVSU. 

She is the interim Secretary of Iloilo Pride Team and Chairperson of DUAG-WVSU which are both organizations in the city of Iloilo that have already established their significance in advocating for gender equality. Her contributions to her advocacies have led her to receive awards such as the 2017 Rotary Club of Iloilo City Boys’ and Girls’ Week Celebration (City Administrator) and the Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardee 2018.


Board Member

Jan is passionate about seeing through the potential contributions of psychological sciences and human rights advocacy in LGBT people’s lives. He is currently Program Associate of ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and is a member of the LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group of the Psychological Association of the Philippines. He has written for various platforms and publications on a diverse range of topics from gender and sexuality to human rights experiences in different contexts. Jan’s desire is to engage in productive and meaningful work that bridges scholarship with practice rooted in people’s real experiences.


Core Working Group

Tashi is the South Asian representative in the Core Working Group. He is affiliated with the Queer Voices of Bhutan.


Core Working Group

Rukshana is a transgender activist and blogger from Nepal who started sharing their personal experiences as a transgender person at the young age of 15. Currently taking up her bachelor of arts in Legislative Law at the Chakrabarti Habi Education Academy–College of Law, Rukshana shares an interest in intersections of language, SOGIESC and law wherein she works around policy changing through legal activism. As of present, she is the Executive Director of Queer Youth Group since October 2020 which is a youth-led network working for the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) rights in Nepal. A devoted advocate for SOGIESC, Rukshana holds officerships in multiple organizations such as Vice President at the Gender and Sexual Minorities Youth Network of National Youth Council, Organizing Committee at the Nepal Pride Parade, Chief Secretary at the LOOM Nepal, Individual Member at Amnesty International Nepal, Focal Person from Nepal at Youth LEAD,, and Board Member of the South Asia Hub, Innovation For Change. She is recognized as a speaker at the opening panel in Women’s Pre-Conference and contributor in the Women’s Manifesto during the ILGA Asia Conference in 2022.

Due to her outstanding contributions to her advocacies, she received the National Volunteering Award by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Government of Nepal in 2020, and Youth Change Maker Award by the United Nations Youth Student Association Nepal in 2018.


Core Working Group

Mandy previously worked as a Programs and Events Coordinator at Sayoni (Singapore), where she conducted research and supported the publication of a rapid research study on how the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ) persons in Southeast Asia (“Making the Invisible Visible in Southeast Asia: How COVID-19 escalates violence and discrimination against LBQ communities”). She previously also volunteered at Inter-University LGBT Network (Singapore) as a Research and Advocacy Volunteer. Aside from being one of the members of YVC’s Core Working Group, she is also a volunteer with Young Out Here, a volunteer-based community group for queer youths in Singapore, and works as a Consultant in the social sector where she supports social organizations and government agencies in programme evaluation, impact measurement, strategic planning and organizational transformation.

She holds a Masters of Arts (Distinction) in Gender, Media and Culture from Goldsmiths, University of London, and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Anthropology at the same institution.”


Core Working Group

As the longest serving member of YVC, Brian takes pride in championing for the rights and welfare of LGBTQIA+ youth in the Asia-Pacific region time and time again. Our resident scholar and academician has a master’s degree in Sociology and is a licensed professional teacher in the Philippines. He believes that education helps people to be enlightened about basic human rights that everyone must enjoy and thus explains his interests in working for the academe. He is also an active member of various organizations helping community members of LGBTQIA+ and people living with HIV in the Philippines including being the former OIC-Executive Director of Pinoy Plus Advocacy Pilipinas, Inc.



Board Member

John Michael is one of the current board members of Youth Voices Count and holds officership positions as President in ALIVE Support Group, member of Network Plus Pilipinas, and YPLHIV United Nation Youth Advisory Board Ph Sector Representative.

As part of the organizations mentioned, JM advocates in providing safe spaces for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and continuous education on HIV/AIDS awareness to eradicate the stigma and discrimination surrounding it.  


Corporate Secretary

Atty. Rea proudly introduces herself as a human rights lawyer. She completed her Juris Doctor (JD) degree (Law Degree) from Central Philippine University and recently passed the Philippine Bar Exam.

At present, she is a part of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) – Panay Chapter where she serves as the Vice Chairperson. They are a group of lawyers who are committed to defend, protect, and promote human rights, especially of the poor and the oppressed. NUPL is an organization established to respond to any form of harassment, intimidation, and human rights violations in the Philippines.


Board Chairperson

Dr. Emmanuel D. Dayalo holds a doctorate degree in Education major in Educational Management and is currently an Associate Professor of Capiz State University-Roxas City Main Campus, Roxas City, Capiz. He is the co-adviser of United Colors of CapSU Roxas City Main Campus (UCC) which its organization’s advocacy is for the empowerment and capacitating the LGBTQIA+ students’ right, health programs and other organized activities to have a voice in the University. Presently, he holds the position as the Coordinator of the Student Organization and Activities of the campus.

He was recognized as the Outstanding Coach/Adviser of the Student Organization and received an award in Research and Extension of the University of Capiz State University, Roxas City Main Campus.


Executive Director

A learner for life and a seeker of knowledge, Justin graduated his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science at West Visayas State University, Philippines and took on a Master’s of Arts in Human Rights and Democratisation (International Program) at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University, Thailand under the APMA / European Union Scholarship. At present, Justin is pursuing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree (Law Degree) from the College of Law, University of San Agustin, Philippines.

Justin entered Youth Voices Count, Inc. in 2018 while studying in Thailand. He later took on the role of Executive Director beginning 2019 and successfully set up the legal registration of the organization in the Philippines under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since then, he has been leading the organization in various programs and projects centered around LGBTIQ children, adolescents, and youth. Outside Youth Voices Count, Inc., Justin is active in other initiatives in the field of research and law. He was a law student fellow of the Legal Education Advancement Program (LEAP) of the Legal Education Board and the UP Law Center in 2022.

As an aspiring lawyer, he hopes to one day be instrumental in providing legal support for marginalized populations. Justin has also published reports, journal articles, commentaries, and book articles in the fields of law, HIV/AIDS, LGBTIQ, and Human Rights.

In 2018, he was awarded the Young Achiever HERO Award by APCOM Foundation during the HERO Awards reception at the Royal British Embassy in Thailand for his outstanding work on equality and human rights. He is one of the Youth Council members of the Global Fund, an international financing and partnership organization that aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria”, and a Board Member of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Committee.