The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is dismayed by the denial of citizenship cards by Nepal’s Home Ministry to transgender people and metis, disregarding their basic civil rights and delaying action on a legal directive delivered in December 2007 by the country’s Supreme Court. The legal verdict, which was the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the Blue Diamond Society, obligated the government to issue citizenship cards to transgender people and metis recognizing their gender as a “third sex.” Despite lobbying by activists to move the Home Ministry to deliver on this ruling, transgender and meti individuals in Nepal today still do not have citizenship cards reflecting legal recognition of their gender identity.
The denial of proper identity cards for transgender people and metis has had wide reaching consequences. Ramifications include lack of access to education, jobs, and health services, as well as the inability to inherit property, obtain passports, or travel abroad during emergencies. In response to the Home Ministry’s inaction, a group of advocates and activists organized peaceful protests outside government offices in Kathmandu on September 14, 2010. The protesters were detained for several hours by the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police with no written orders or explanation for why they were arrested and held in custody.
Governments that deny fundamental rights to their citizens – in this instance, communities that are already marginalized – actively exclude these individuals from civic participation as equal members of society. This sends a strong message to the people of Nepal and the broader global community that prejudice supersedes social justice and human dignity. The absence of an enabling legal environment for transgender people and metis is not uncommon across the world, frequently pushing people into unemployment, poverty and substance abuse, leading to poorer health outcomes and a heightened vulnerability to HIV. Worse still, these individuals are often subjected to harassment and violence from the general public, as well as abuse by the police and other authorities. The need for strong anti-discrimination policies is clear, and gender identity should be recognized regardless of whether or not one chooses to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
The MSMGF recognizes that the denial of full and equal rights for transgender individuals in Nepal is but one example of how governments around the world consistently ignore the human rights of transgender people, men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, and people who use drugs. The MSMGF urges its partners, members of the HIV community, and public health stakeholders to stand in solidarity and support the rights of transgender people in Nepal and the world over. We demand immediate action for legal recognition of transgender identities by Nepal’s government, as directed by the Supreme Court of that country. Only then will transgender people and metis be able to freely access basic services, including health and HIV services, exercising the full spectrum of rights entitled to every human being.
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is an expanding network of AIDS organizations, MSM networks, and advocates committed to ensuring robust coverage of and equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM. Guided by a Steering Committee of 20 members from 17 countries situated mainly in the Global South, and with administrative and fiscal support from AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), the MSMGF works to promote MSM health and human rights worldwide through advocacy, information exchange, knowledge production, networking, and capacity building.