Top Stories

MRP regime can’t read ‘third gender’

  • Applicant runs from pillar to post seeking passport

  • Home says it’s not apt to issue passports to third gender people retaining present setup

KATHMANDU, JUL 25 - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Sunday denied Machine Readable Passport (MRP) to a third gender applicant citing that the system did not support it. The current MRP regime recognises only male or female under the ‘sex’ category.

Dilu Bhujuda, 45, of Myagdi district had applied for an MRP some 35 days ago at the Narayanhiti distribution centre along with citizenship certificate that recognises her as a “third gender”.

Bhujuda was the first proclaimed third gender to apply for the MRP since it came into effect in December last year.

When Bhujuda inquired the passport unit about her document on Sunday afternoon, she was told that it could not be issued as she sought because the MRP system cannot read that gender category. “Our system recognises either male or female. We need to change the MRP software before issuing passport to a third gender applicant,” said Acting Chief of Central Passport Office Tapas Adhikari.

Then Bhujuda called Sunil Babu Panta, a proclaimed third gender campaigner and lawmaker, and Bhakti Shah, a woman soldier who was sacked by the Nepal Army owing to her sexual orientation, to discuss the matter with senior MoFA officials. The trio later met Foreign Secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai and asked why she was denied a passport on gender ground.

“I told them that we will consult with the Home Ministry regarding numerous legal and administrative hiccups that need to be sorted out,” Bhattarai said. According to him, it will take some time to change the MRP configuration so as for it to recognise the gender status.

Since Bhujuda applied for a passport duly in advance, the ministry collected information about international practices through its missions. “We were informed that even in many European nations passports are not issued recognising the third gender. The same happens in Israel, China and South Korea,” another official said. The ministry asked Bhujuda to approach it on Monday saying it might get other possibilities by then.

When the MoFA consulted with the Home Ministry, the latter suggested it was inappropriate to issue passports to third gender applicants in the present legal and administrative setup. The MoFA was told there lay several complications in issuing citizenship certificates to third gender people following the 2007 Supreme Court verdict.

The landmark ruling has directed the state to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity besides decriminalising “unnatural sex”. Following the order to issue citizenship cards to third gender people, four such applicants all over the country have secured their right.

Posted on: 2011-07-25 10:16