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Third gender in Nepal: Struggling for their existence

The term “inclusion” is now becoming very popular in every sector, both government and private. In Nepal the term inclusion refers to equal participation of all caste, gender, religion, class and ethnicity. Furthermore, inclusion also ascertains to end discrimination as it provides equal opportunity for participation. Nepal’s interim constitution #2063 prohibits all type of discrimination to every citizen regarding gender, ethnicity, caste and religion. It was a land mark decision of Nepal’s Supreme Court decided on 21st December, 2007 regarding sexual minorities in Nepal. It protects almost all the primary human rights of third gender. The “Yogyakarta Principle” is the back bone behind the Supreme Court’s decision. Principle was launched by a group of human rights experts on the Application of Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This principle clearly asserted the need for law to protect all the universal human rights such as the right to equality and non discrimination, right to life, rights to education/health/, right to privacy, rights to freedom and so on. The Court has ordered the government to provide citizenship according to gender identity.

On one hand, the state has given these rights to every citizen, but on the other hand, Nepalese citizens must still battle for some of these fundamental human rights – especially freedom from discrimination based on gender identity. Third gender people, those who behave according to opposite gender roles than that which was identified at birth have been going through such hard situation. Their true identity as a third gender person is ignored by family, society and state.

They still cannot walk freely in the street because people’s eyes stare at their odd appearance. Families sometimes feel shame and believe that it is a sin to have such children; society makes fun of them; and finally and most egregiously, the state does not have a category to identify their gender. This is a violation of the order of the Court. Due to lack of awareness about the laws protecting them, third gender persons experience discrimination and violation of their fundamental rights in areas of education, health, family life, and employment with the government job.

Nepalese society’s persistent clinging to old ways is an example of the conservative mindset that holds on to traditions of past millennia. But the government and individuals all across Nepalese society embrace inclusion and support third gender persons’ right to lifestyles consistent with their gender. Families, from a lifetime of experience with third gender persons, understand that for third gender persons living as the gender assigned at birth is a travesty to their brother, sister, son, or daughter’s true identity.

Discrimination in the name of gender, caste, class, religion drives society back to the stone-age, and this is unacceptable in this 21st century. Therefore it is necessary that the Nepalese government develops ways to enforce the rights guaranteed by the Supreme Order. Nobody should be deprived of fundamental human rights, so assurance should be given soon by the state to protect the rights of sexual and gender minorities. All human rights violation must be stopped.

My experience getting to know two third gender persons reinforced for me the importance of this right.

As I sit waiting to meet Bhumika, she enters with warm grinning. Her pink t-shirt and black jeans highlight her figure in a perfect way. Her shaded eyelids and big eyes, along with her shining white stone nose-pin, make her smooth white cheeks sparkle. Her silky grey highlighted hair and her tall body add to her flawless beauty. I cannot avoid my double-takes, noticing her stunning looks.

So long ago, Bhumika’s mother gave birth to a boy, and the family rejoiced fully at the event of getting one more son, Kailash. Day by day, Kailash grew and everyone warmly welcomed his childlike, affectionate behavior. Kailash basked in happiness each moment of his childhood life.

One day at the sweet age of between five and six years old, Kailash ‘s eyes eagerly notice his mother’s dresses and make-up kit. He gets the great idea of dressing up and dancing in those lovely clothes, and he does as his mind says. Kailash feels good doing this, and his family too enjoys watching his performance, even though it’s somehow a little peculiar. Parents, other family members and neighbor take his acts just as a part of his childhood, and they suppose that all this will change routinely as he grows up. During these years he treasures his ability to do exactly what his mind wants to do.

Along with the flow of time, Kailash grows up. He does some household chores and plays some outdoor games. But his mind never loves to play football or cricket with his brother. His passion goes towards helping his mother in cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the house and so on. On the other hand, he is admitted to the nearby school. There he gets closer with girls. Making friends among boys is quite difficult. Noticing his unusual behavior, teachers often scold him to change the behavior, and they punish him. His friends tease him. As a result, he gives up going to school, but that doesn’t change anything for him. He too hopes and believes that as he grows up, his disposition will change naturally.

The teen age time of excitement arrives, and Kailash is shocked to find himself falling in love with a boy instead of girl. His feeling starts to be pinched. He spends days thinking about having different sexual feelings and spends tearful nights wrestling with the contrast between his body and his mind. Many times he questions himself, “Why is this happening with me?”

As this pain continues, he tries to pursue his brother’s activities to see if he can convince his mind to go with his body. He overlooks his desires. He starts to accompany his brother when playing football; he tries to adjust among boys, and tries to distract himself from his sense of sexuality. But all his attempts cannot succeed. The sensation of his mind always pulls his changing acts back. As a result, he feels nothing but frustration and despair. He supposes that he is the single person in the world having such trouble with mind and body. He censures God for making his life so wearisome. But nothing relieves his pain.

In the same way, conservative society’s attitude is a strong hurdle to get over. His every effort to behave masculine falls short. Nobody is aware of the conflicts inside him. His inner feelings continue to be so opposite from the way everyone expects him to act and feel. He finds no way to let his inside feeling out. Finally he ascertains that his mind, his heart and his personality are more an expression of who he really is, than the sexual organs of his body. He makes his mind up to live life according to his own truth.

After gathering his all courage, he shares his struggles, his annoyance and his heartache with his family. Watching each and every behavior since babyhood has made his family aware of his struggle, so yes, they accept the truth living inside Kailash. His family’s acceptance melts his frustration and makes his heart warm and happy.

Though he gets family supports, tackling society’s attitude seems impossible, so for some time Kailash bears the pain in the outside world. Finally, though, after making his heart strong he dares to fight against society’s gossip and reproach. He determines to make life happy and worth living as he really is. He decides to change his identity by using a feminine name, so Kailash becomes Bhumika.

The Other Way Around

Milan Shah’s story is similar to Bhumika’s. Now with his boyish haircut, his cool black jacket, and his matching jeans and muffler, there is no doubt about his sexual identity. His story began when he was born as a girl among several other daughters in far western region, Kailali.

Milan recalls his past. He was a good volleyball player in school so his difference was never noticed by his family or his society. He always took leadership in school. Teachers used to choose him as a negotiator if any fighting happened among students. He shares a fresh memory of helping to his father in digging, ploughing, making a shed for a cow, and other father’s duties. Unlike his sisters, he never wanted to follow mother’s household chores.

As time went on, he was recruited in the female troops of the Nepalese army, just like he always dreamed he would. The courage, passion and confidence boiling inside him helped to become number one in rank during tough training of army. He had always come in first in physical labor like running and carrying loads. With this achievement, he was selected as trainer for the next new group of female army officers.

He gladly shares his experience that he was often praised by senior officers about his potency to defeat all other counterparts. Nevertheless, during that service in Nepalese army, trouble then was planted in his life regarding his dual identity. After identifying his gender he was forced out from the job.

Milan had already known since school days that the gender of his thoughts and personality was male. Still, he knew that his career goal had always been to serve in the army. He applied to serve in the female ranks because as a citizen he was designated as a female. Though he fought for his right to serve his nation, his gender identity cost him the job of his dreams.

Blue Diamond Society, the Core of Hope:

Bhumika and Milan’s stories represent thousands of third gender individuals. According to Sunil babu Panta, honorable member of constituent assembly, it is estimated that 8-10% of the total population are sexual and gender minorities including third gender.

In 2001 an organization named the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) was established by people who were going through the crisis of living in Nepal as sexual and gender minorities. BDS aims to fight discrimination against sexual minorities and advocates for their basic human rights. BDS participated in the submission of the writ petition to the Supreme Court demanding an end to discrimination against sexual minorities. The Supreme Court decided in their favor.

Sunil Babu Panta, the founder and president of BDS now represents the sexual minorities group in Nepal’s constitution assembly. This opportunity has given him chances to speak up for their rights during assembly meetings. BDS has been playing a vital role as it provides legal supports, counseling and even economic supports. It has provided employment opportunity for many in its office. It has been empowering them by organizing many events like Mr. and Miss Pink, Nepal. In fact BDS has provided them relief to some extent. Since BDS was established, more than 300,000 sexual minority individuals have been in contact, and they have united throughout the nation to come out to society. In fact, BDS has been creating smiles on thousands of gloomy hearts. It’s the chore of their hope.

Understanding the Reality:

“People believe that we are un-natural,” Bhumika shares and sheds her pain. But she further clarifies by giving her experience as an example. Bhumika explains how her efforts to become masculine never succeeded in hiding the female living inside her. “Who wants to live such a humiliated and painful life?” she elucidated with gloomy feeling. She went through the hardest time during her teenage life, and she still feels all the old pain from her past.

Struggling for rights:

Milan, now happily living with his partner, has many unforgettable and painful memories. He never forgets when he was slapped in public toilet. “It’s very difficult for us in public places. We must hold our full bladder for 5-6 hours some times, otherwise the only other option would be to get slapped,” he explains. Similarly, he faced bitter experience in a hospital when he was brought to the emergency room. No doctor was willing to treat him after recognizing his gender identity.

The Honorable Mr. Panta agrees about Milan’s experience. He takes both the issues seriously, and he demands that these problems be addressed immediately. “We are treated lying in the corridor in the hospital. Hospitals do not have a separate ward for us. It touches my heart very deeply,” Panta further sheds his worries.

Economic empowerment is the most important factor in living independently. The biggest current challenge for BDS is to economically empower sexual and gender minorities. They are still struggling to get their citizenship as per their own identity, a situation that withholds from them so many job opportunities. Without mainstream employment, many are compelled to turn to work in prostitution. Consequently, HIV/AIDS has become another by-product of the issue.

Responsibilities of every one:

The State needs to recognize the nation’s transformation movement, the third people’s movement. As sexual and gender minorities are citizens of the nation, the government has the major responsibility to secure their access to the rights the constitution has granted them. With that, they would get all the state’s conveniences with no trouble. Also, the State should behave equally to all the citizens.

Yes, along with the state’s duties, there are family’s and society’s duties also. Family and society can feel the truth of sexual and gender minorities and should welcome them with warm smiles. All individuals first must feel happy in their own family and then in society so that they can live comfortably. Otherwise they have no option but to live helplessly in the street.

Of course the Nepalese government needs to develop ways to enforce the Supreme Order. But all the urging people can do is unlikely to bring that about during this time of transition and uncertainty in the government. Even the leadership of Mr. Panta is not likely to bring that about on his own. Lacking that, the people themselves, the ones who understand the importance of universal inclusion, can and will work together to bring this about.

Every day, organizations working for human rights are mushrooming. Heaps of posters, wall-paintings, and slogans are seen everywhere in public places about protecting human rights. It is time for them to include the rights of sexual and gender minorities in their vision. Human rights activists, aware of the miserable living conditions for sexual minorities in Nepal, will raise their voices to make people aware of the needs of sexual and gender minorities and focus their efforts to support their dignity and basic rights especially in education, health, housing, employment and right livelihood. People will come together through and with organizations, and organizations can come together, to raise awareness and bring about the universal inclusion that the interconnected planet Earth of our 21st Century demands.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Comments

Hello, Usha:

I am so happy that you chose such a universally important and deeply meaningful topic, Usha. And I love your pictures.

Your stories of meeting Milan and Bhumika bring them and their reality right to my mind's eye and my wringing heart.

I also like the way you are realistic, about the fact that at this point, the government is not going to move ahead at the speed we want with change, so you envisioned another way that will be so effective. All around the world we are seeing the power of many voices, speaking together, in peace.

I love your voice, dear Usha.

Anna

Speaking my Peace

usha kc's picture

Didi,,you are precious for

Didi,,you are precious for me.
So pleased having your encouraging words.
Thank you from my heart.

HUG :)

Stella Paul's picture

Well done!

My dear sister

First of all, congrats on completing module 4! Can you believe, 4 months are gone already? Time flies soooo fast!.
Now, about this article, bravo! talking of a taboo subject like third gender takes courage and you have demonstrated it. I am sure your network has expanded while during this story which will help immensely in future and your voices will go far away.

Love and hugs!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

usha kc's picture

hey sisi,,thank you, thank

hey sisi,,thank you, thank you so much . And yes, congrsts to you too for multiple causes .

so much love and my best wishes for your comming days.

hugsss

treasureland's picture

Good one Usha!

Wonderful writeup especially your last sentence is truly what we need.

"People will come together through and with organizations, and organizations can come together, to raise awareness and bring about the universal inclusion that the interconnected planet Earth of our 21st Century demands."

CHEERS

Ifesinachi

usha kc's picture

Many thanx dear Ife

Many thanx dear Ife sister.
hugs

amiesissoho's picture

Usha, You have been brave

Usha,

You have been brave to raise a topic often shy away from because of the hate speeches directed at such people. Recently on old patriarch in my country who is against our campaign on FGM brought in sexual orientation into the topic. He claimed that our aim is to promote minority sexual orientation in our society. His attempt was to distract our people from the FGM debate to what is considered as "immoral" behaviour. My position is all human beings are citizens and we should respect people for what they are or chose to be to promote peace amongst us.

Amie

usha kc's picture

yes, I feel the same as you

yes, I feel the same as you feel that is all human beings are citizens and we should respect people for what the are of chose to be promote peace amongst us.
Thank you much for making comments dear.

luv

Celine's picture

Dear Usha, I tell you dear

Dear Usha,

I tell you dear sister - "YOU ROCK." I am proud to know you as a hardworking sister. Your English is 'perfect.' xoxo

Again, thank you for teaching me something here. I never knew this language - 'third gender' before reading your post. Thank you for sharing this great piece.

Hugs,

Celine.

usha kc's picture

Hey sis,,thank you so much

Hey sis,,thank you so much dear and yes, you have also rocked sharing such important issue about childern accused of witch:) which I never heard before.

love-hugs.

Leslie Stoupas's picture

Universal inclusion!

Usha,

I learned so much from reading your article and seeing the kinds of challenges that third gender people face. I have not seen that term ("third gender") either, and I am glad to add it to my vocabulary. I have a dear friend who chose to live with her true gender and she is so much happier and so much more at peace than in her earlier life. It is a very meaningful way of being in the world. I feel something very powerful in your idea that if local governments cannot address this human rights issue (in my opinion, they very often leave out discussions of minority groups until a later, more convenient time, one that never comes!) it must be held as a universal human rights issue, as third gender people exist in every country. Thank you so much for the enlightening article!

Leslie Stoupas

usha kc's picture

Thank you so much Leslie for

Thank you so much Leslie for reading my post and making comment. I am glad that you could add a new word in your vocabulary list :)

hugs

MaDube's picture

Usha dear

I loved your article! First you set the general context in which our society forces us to conform into two gender identities, male and female. Then your story gives clear examples in Milan and Bhumika of how these tow identities are a fallacy, verifying that indeed gender identity is a continuum. I then especially liked the part when you show how people with a different gender identity from what is considered the norm face so many difficulties accessing basic needs such as health care simply because of their identity.

This is an excellent write-up and indeed the situation is similar if not worse in Zimbabwe, where a lot of hate speech, derogatory language and general hatred is stirred up even by the president against LGBTIQ persons.

Thanks for this piece.

Best,

MaDube

usha kc's picture

Hi sisi, thank you

Hi sisi,
thank you so very much for praising my voice dear. It means to me a lot.

hugsssssss

mrbeckbeck's picture

One human family

Usha, this is such an excellent article! I love how you approached this topic, from a place of compassion and dignity. All around the world people who live in the legal-social limbo of third gender are cheering you on for this article!

It's great that your government has accepted third-gender rights into the Constitution, and I agree that it will take time, but with a vocal society demanding it, we will get to a place where justice, respect and dignity are everyone's experience.

The interviews you included were a great way to make this topic come to life. I loved it. I think that a lot of people still have a hard time understanding that not everyone fits neatly into the two categories of man and woman, but with articles like this I think we can start to raise awareness and shift society slowly but surely.

Well done, sis! Thank you so much.
Best,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

usha kc's picture

Dear Scott, Thank you so so

Dear Scott,
Thank you so so so very much for giving comment on my article. I have true compassion to them. Nobody can feel their pain until and unless they would not met them--third gender people-- and they would not hear about the truth inside them. It's really hard to make the people realized .
I very hardly kept my tear inside eyes when I was taking interview with Bhumika and Milan.

Yes, as you said it takes long but sure, I believe the same that they would get justice one day.

thanks

Jensine's picture

Universal Inclusion - For ALL!

Dearest Usha -
A spectacular piece. It had your "voice" yet did an INCREDIBLE JOB of weaving in the stories throughout the piece. I love how you did the flip-flop - from one gender transformation to the other. Your writing is excellent, and kept me hanging on every word. My only suggestion is that you had me "hooked" once the stories start - but if i had only started with the first paragraph and not kept reading, i might have moved on and not read the full piece which would have been a shame!!. I suggest you start a story with a personal anectdote / quotes. Then put second a nut graph that tells the reader what your article will cover, and why it is important.

I love your call for this transformation movement of the third people's movement - universal inclusion and human rights must be for ALL, as your piece so eloquently and colorfully expresses.

Hooray!

Jensine Larsen
World Pulse

usha kc's picture

Dear Jensine, I

Dear Jensine,
I would keep your suggestion in mind. Thank you very much for giving your valuable time on my article and yes thanks for not moving out after first paragraph:)
I am so happy to have your encouraging words here.

hugs

dodger87's picture

Bravo and Thank You

Dear Usha,

Your writing is clear, bright and wonderfully connective in spirit - you allow us to see the truth behind the illusions and weave the higher message through personal stories of adversity.

Thank you for taking time to write and share these stories and the work you are doing to help overcome the ongoing discrimination of third gender people in your country.

I love that term - "third gender" - it aptly describes the situation these special people find themselves in, not truly male or female, but a hybrid, and unique in the expanded consciousness they have to share.

In the United States, there are Native American tribes that believed those who were "third gender" people were gifted by the Great Spirit to walk in a special light of knowing - very often they became Medicine Men and Women and Shamans for their tribe, gifted with a higher sight.

What I encourage you to continue to do (as you have already so beautifully been doing) is let your friends and all other third gender people know that they have a special mission and contribution to make to our world. They are showing us that no perceived "difference" should marginalize, devalue, or demean ANY person - their expanded view of the world adds new dimensions to our understanding of humanity, and they have much to teach us.

We are moving to a higher level of consciousness globally. Though it is frustrating now as we see such divisive and polarized rhetoric, discrimination and hatred being spewed, it is all because we are in the transition times. Those who are the harshest and loudest, clinging to the old ways of thinking and believing, are the ones most fearful of change. But change is coming whether they want it or like it or not... it is not in their control, but is a higher Power that is creating this change.

In the end, love will rule, and so it is.

Thank you once again for your beautiful work, your courage, and commitment to truth. My very best wishes and prayers for you and all those whose lives you touch... many blessings.

Nancy Lyn Cotter
Founder & CEO
Self Worth Coalition - A Global Initiative
ReDefining Ourselves in a World of Change
http://www.facebook.com/NancyLynCotter
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Self-Worth-Coalition-A-Global-Initiative/2...

usha kc's picture

Dear Nancy, My heartfelt

Dear Nancy,
My heartfelt thanks for your moving comments. Your every word gives me extra courage to go ahead.

Thanks again for your valuable time giving on my writting.

Hugs

tuulafai's picture

Excellent article

Namaste Usha,

I admire how you weave the personal stories of Kailash and Milan into your piece while describing Nepal's current government initiatives around inclusiveness. I especially like the boldness of this sentence, "Nepalese society’s persistent clinging to old ways is an example of the conservative mindset that holds on to traditions of past millennia." I feel so priviledged to know you. You are a very gifted journalist and social activist.

Maya, Tuula :-)

usha kc's picture

Namaste dee, Thank you

Namaste dee,
Thank you so much for your admiration. Hope , every thing going good with you.

hugs

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