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Nepal opens up national elections to members of ‘third gender’

Nepal opens up national elections to members of ‘third gender’

KATHMANDU, Nepal — The Nepal government’s Election Commission said Monday that LGBT and inter-sex Nepalis are able to register as “third gender” for the first time in the country’s history, and will be able campaign openly for legislative seats in the upcoming November 19 national elections.

Nepal-flagAccording to the Nepali LGBTQI advocacy group Blue Diamond Society-based in Kathmandu, there are roughly half a million Nepalis who qualify as third gender in the Himalayan nation of 26.6 million people.

“We will implement gender balance and inclusiveness in our policy, and will take the necessary initiatives to create an environment for the third gender to participate in elections,” Election Commission spokesman Bir Bahadur Rai said.

The election commission ran a massive campaign in September during voter registration to encourage transsexual and transgender voters to sign up under the new third gender designation.

But while major political forces have accepted sexual minorities, traditional Nepalese society has not accepted them, according to Purushottam Dahal, a political science professor at Nepal Sanskrit University and former editor of the national Rajdhani newspaper.

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“Sexual minority candidates are not likely to affect the results if they run as independents. But if major political parties nominate them as election candidates, they will have a significant effect on the result,” Dahal told United Press International.

UPI reported that 12 transgender candidates have been announced for the country’s 601-seat Constituent Assembly, in addition to 50 gay, lesbian and bisexual candidates.

The country’s Supreme Court in December 2007 ordered that sexual minorities be guaranteed the same rights as other citizens, such as rights to employment and education.

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