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Nepal's gays say 'cheated' in census count

in NEPAL, 30/09/2011

Nepal's new census has failed to count homosexual, bisexual and transgender people as a “third gender”, a gay rights group said on Friday, accusing the conservative nation’s authorities of "cheating" sexual minorities.

Preliminary results of the largely Hindu nation's first census since the end of its decade-long civil war listed a population of 26.6 million people - 13.7 million females and 12.9 million males.

But the Blue Diamond Society, a well-known gay rights group, said Nepal's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) did not include a "third gender" category for the Himalayan nation’s 150,000 to 200,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, despite an earlier pledge to do so.

"Since they did not bother to count third gender citizens, how can they say they have really respected the rights of sexual and gender minorities?" said Sunil Babu Pant, Blue Diamond Society's founder.

"We are shocked now that the CBS actually cheated the most marginalised community in Nepal," said Pant, Nepal's only openly gay member of parliament, in a statement.

But government officials denied excluding homosexuals from the census, saying a third gender category would be included in the final results published next year.

"We have collected their details which could not be included in the preliminary findings. These details will be published in our final report," said CBS Director General Narayan Malla Uttam.

In recent years, the impoverished Himalayan nation has become more gay-friendly. But homosexuality is still taboo, and while there are no specific laws against gays or same-sex marriages, "unnatural sex" carries a one-year jail term.

Members of Nepal's gay community say they face widespread discrimination, and are demanding citizenship certificates with their gender marked as "third sex" instead of male or female. The documents are required for accessing jobs, education and pensions.

(Editing by Nita Bhalla and Megan Rowling)

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