Nepal’s transgenders shut out of voting

Nepal’s transgenders shut out of voting
In this photograph taken on November 2, 2013 Nepalese transgendered performers put on make up backstage in Kathmandu on November 2, 2013. A Nepalese transgender dancer in her twenties, Nazia Shilalik, says her gender has cost her jobs, respect and soon, she believes it will cost her a vote in upcoming elections.

KATHMANDU - As a Nepalese transgender dancer in her twenties, Nazia Shilalik says her gender has cost her jobs, respect and soon, she believes, it will cost her a vote in upcoming elections.

Transgenders had high hopes six years ago when Nepal's Supreme Court approved third gender citizenship - part of a judgment that ordered the government to enact laws to guarantee the rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

But now the fundamental human rights changes that transgenders anticipated look elusive because of a lack of documentation proving their identity.

"I would love to (vote), but I know I will not get the chance because I am a transgender person," said Shilalik.

Despite the landmark ruling, the vast majority of transgender people in Nepal are still waiting to obtain vital documentation officially recognising their third sex gender.

The citizenship certificates, which serve as national ID cards, are required to open bank accounts, buy and sell property, apply for a job and acquire a passport.

Yet the president of a prominent LGBT campaign group in the Himalayan nation estimates that just three out of 200,000 Nepalese transgenders have managed to change their citizenship from male/female to third gender - largely because of official intransigence and prejudice.

The result is thousands of disenfranchised transgender voters.

Shilalik has bitter memories of her previous attempt to participate in Nepalese democracy.

Five years ago - just 15 months after the Supreme Court passed its landmark law that approved third gender citizenship - an excited Shilalik headed out to vote in Nepal's first democratic elections since the end of a decade-long civil war in 2006.

When Shilalik, who says people are "always making fun of me on the street because I look like a girl and sound like a boy", arrived at the polling station in Kathmandu, she noticed two queues for men and women.

There were no queues for third-gender voters.

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