Nepal | May 30, 2020

EDITORIAL: Allow self-declaration

The Himalayan Times
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How the third gender people want to be identified in the citizenship certificate is for them to decide

The parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee’s decision requiring an authorised doctor’s recommendation to obtain citizenship certificate as the ‘other gender’ for third gender persons is highly objectionable. The proposal was brought by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the panel had endorsed it unanimously. All bona fide citizens of this country are entitled to a citizenship certificate, irrespective of their sexual orientation. How they want to be identified in the citizenship certificate is for them to decide. Thus, self-declaration, as demanded by Blue Diamond Society (BDS), which advocates for the rights of marginalised gay, transgender and other sexual minority communities, should be sufficient for such people to be included in the “other gender” category in the citizenship certificate. Requiring a medical report for obtaining citizenship certificate also goes against the right granted by the constitution. According to the lawmakers, such a provision has been recommended to stop the misuse of citizenship in the name of ‘other gender’. The recommendation made by the doctor will not be mentioned in the citizenship certificate but will be registered in a file.

The parliamentary committee’s decision comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s verdict to issue citizenship to the other gender, but it makes no mention of the process to be followed while doing so. The court has, however, asked for the formation of a committee to make recommendations on the issue. The BDS chair has a point when she says the lawmakers were against giving the third gender their rights because many more people would declare themselves as such to benefit from the state facilities and benefits made available to the minorities. But this is unlikely as the Nepali society is still not very open, and there is still stigma to having a different sexual orientation.

The State should make it easier for the third gender people to declare how they want to be identified in the citizenship certificate through individual counseling. Also, the LTGBQ community should be consulted on whether they feel comfortable being lumped together as the other gender. Should they so wish to be identified individually as a lesbian, a bisexual or a transgender, why not entertain the plea, as a lesbian is biologically and functionally different from a transgender. In another decision, the State Affairs Committee has concluded that people could make corrections in their citizenship card within a year of obtaining it after the bill is enacted. However, the laws will have to be much more flexible, allowing people to choose their gender whenever they feel the need. There are examples galore of men, after fathering children, suddenly realising in middle age that they have a different sexual orientation. Listening to the grievances of the third gender people will make it easier for them to come forward in society. With changing values in society, it is only a matter of time before we begin to accept them as one of our kind without difficulty. Until recently, people living with HIV were ostracised from society. This rarely happens today, thanks to the activism over the years. The same could happen with the third gender people.

Simara SEZ

The Special Economic Zone Authority, Nepal (SEZ) has said the Simara SEZ will be ready for investment by April. The Simara SEZ will be the second of its kind after Bhairahawa, which came into operation three years ago. The Simara SEZ is to develop as a Garment Processing Zone (GPZ), with a view to exporting garments to third countries, especially to the US. Chandika Bhatta, executive director of SEZ Authority, Nepal, said the land required for the Simara SEZ had already been acquired and other necessary infrastructure was ready.

The government came up with the idea of developing it as a GPZ after the US government granted Nepal zero tariff preference for 66 garment items into its market through the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act,” which was enacted in 2016. The zero tariff preference facility remains valid till 2025. The Simara SEZ is located close to the Birgunj dry-port, linked to Indian railways. Production, transportation and shipment costs will be very low due to its proximity with the Nepal-India border. Investors must utilise the Simara SEZ to reap maximum benefits by exporting garments to the US market. This will also provide plenty of job opportunities for the local people.


A version of this article appears in print on March 21, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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