Gender is one of the most important areas of Community development. "Gender" means masculinity and femininity and not male and female. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, responsibilities, attributes, characteristics, and power relations that are assigned to men and women of a given society or community. These constructs can vary greatly by culture, tradition, norms, values, geographic region, socioeconomic status, and context, and they change over time. Your deeply-held inner feelings of whether you’re female or male, both, or neither is your gender identity. It is about how individuals perceive themselves as and their identity. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from the sex assigned at birth (Human Rights Campaign). Some people may identify as a man or a woman and some may have a gender identity that doesn’t fit into one of these genders and identify themselves as LGBTIQA+ (Diversity and Inclusion, AHS). 'LGBTIQA+' is an umbrella term that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from the sex assigned at birth (Human Rights Campaign).
There have always been issues on gender disparity in Nepal but it is only recently that people are being more vocal and the discussion and issues of gender-related things are being raised and have come out to the mainstream especially issues related to LQBTQA+. For about a decade now, Nepal has been leading LGBT rights progress in Asia and globally, due to various achievements in the field of LGBT that started with a decisive 2007 Supreme Court decision in which the court acknowledged that LGBT individuals should enjoy the same legal rights as other citizens. Supreme Court ordered the government to legally recognize a third gender category, audit all laws to identify those that discriminated against LGBT people, and form a committee to study legal recognition of same-sex relationships (Knight. 2017). After the court’s decision, the Nepal government worked to identify laws and policies that needed to change to eliminate discrimination against LGBT people and help them come into the mainstream. Nepal has made remarkable achievements in the sector of LGBTQI rights by changing the way of thinking.
Conservation patriarchal Nepali society considered LQBTQI as a sin for committing a crime in their previous life or god’s wrath and they were successful in changing the mindset of people to be more open about it and to address the rights. By 2010, the Election Commission had added the third option to voter’s roll and immigration forms swiftly followed suit. In 2011, Nepal was the world’s first country to include the third gender on its federal census (Knight. 2017). The term ‘Third gender’ here is used as an umbrella term for gender variance and gender and sexual minorities (GSM). In 2015, the Nepal government started issuing passports that recognized three genders. In the same year, Nepal became the world’s 10th country to specifically protect LQBTQ people in its constitution (Knight. 2017).
Despite many achievements LGBTQI community in Nepal still face challenges. They are still excluded from society even though the government has made policies for them and provided them with identity and rights. Despite LGBTQI discrimination is illegal in Nepal, they have to face all forms of discrimination and oppression such as lack of employment opportunities and prejudice when accessing health care, marriage, housing, and education. LGBTQI community members experience, prejudice, stigma, violence, discrimination, and victimization in the course of their lives. According to the Blue Diamond Society, In the context of LGBTQI, most of them are still hidden and are in the closet. They are a marginalized group within the marginalized community. This is the group suppressed by the patriarchal system, and breaking the closet is a nightmare (Blue Diamond Society, 2018 January).
Many LGBTQI members are still hidden as their family members often keep the sexual orientation a secret for fear of shame and stigmatized and some are afraid to disclose it to their family members in the fear of loss of family, rejection from family and friends where society does not accept them for who they are and violent consequences which can ultimately lead to depression, anxiety, a sense of fear, shame. Acceptance by families is severely limited due to overwhelming social and cultural pressures to enter a marriage with the opposite gender and fulfill the gender role that comes with it. Same-sex couples may find it difficult to find housing or experience discrimination from neighbors. LGBTQI members also face barriers in accessing the health sector as it prevents them from fully accessing and utilizing health services. They are discriminated against by health service providers because of their gender and people from rural areas who have no idea about LGBTI, gender, and gender identity, they think their child has some health problem and take them to the hospital to cure them or for traditional healing methods. As said above, they are a marginalized group within the marginalized community but they do not have any government quota, positive discrimination, special advantage, or benefits to ensure social inclusion as other recognized marginalized groups such as Dalits, Janajati, Muslims, Women, etc.
Some serious issues faced by the LGBTQI community are the dropout from the school due to homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying, and the lack of an LGBTQI friendly environment in educational settings such as toilets. Prejudice can come from other students, their parents, and also from teachers and education officials. To ensure proper education and to minimize dropout rates, training needs to be done for teachers and staff in schools to ensure the physical safety and mental well-being of LGBT youth. Furthermore, schools and educational systems also should establish anti-discrimination laws. Transgender students are denied access to exams or get enrolled in schools, colleges because of problems with identification cards and uniforms. Transgender people confront explicit discrimination including physical and verbal attacks when their citizenship or identity documents may not reflect their chosen gender. They also have difficulties in obtaining documents in their preferred gender which would then be a barrier to them when seeking employment, further education, or migrating to other countries.
Gender and community development need to go together to make community development sustainable by incorporating all the genders with equal participation and involvement. To make effective and inclusive development we have to ensure the participation of marginalized communities such as LGBTQI, elderly, children, people with disabilities, women, indigenous groups, minorities group, etc. From the surface, it may look like there is no problem but as we look more and deeper into it, we can see the situation of the LGBTQI community and women more clearly. To remove the gender disparity from society it is very important to find the root cause and search for possible solutions for it such as changing the perception of the people towards the LGBTQI. Providing quotas and other positive discriminations can help the LGBTQI community to come out in society. The role of organizations and agencies encouraging LGBTQI is also very important to encourage the community to readily accept the identity of LGBTQI people and also LGBTQI people to be open about their gender identity. Collaboration with civil society, organizations, development partners, and various government ministries has shown a positive response.
In Nepali society, where we give values to family, relationships, social norms, values, and culture, the lack of family and community support and help can have a huge impact on the mental and physical health of LGBTQI people. Even though people support alternative sexualities and gender identities, when it comes to day-to-day behavior, there is an urgent need to change the ground reality. Discrimination, prejudice, and abuse against the LGBTQI community are still prevalent in the region. In Nepal, the legalization of homosexuality by the court is only the first battle among many that are yet to come.
Considerable progress is being made in advancing human rights for LGBTQI individuals in Nepal. The government of Nepal used to consider third gender persons to be ‘unnatural’, ‘sin from a past life’, and ‘perverted’ until not long ago. But things have been getting better in recent years, people are being more accepting and organizations and activists working for the rights of LGBTTQI people are also being successful in changing the mindset of people. The court recognized third gender persons as ‘natural people’ and ordered the government to end all discrimination against third gender persons by formulating appropriate laws and amending existing laws to ensure their rights. Through amendments of some laws and by making egalitarian policies (emphasizing equality and equal treatment across gender, religion, economic status, and political beliefs), Nepal has shown signs of change in gender equality. With the positive change in Nepal, the third gendered people have started to come out of the closet demanding equal rights on par with other genders. Given a disparity in policy, legal provisions, and actual practice, a better understanding of the perceptions and experiences of various agencies towards LGBTQI is essential which in turn may promote better harmony, inclusion, and justice in the society.
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