Nepal first transgender passport
Nepal issues first transgender passport to LGBT activistReuters file photo

For the first time, Nepali authorities have issued a special passport under the transgender category to a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist. Authorities disregarded the routine "male" or "female" categories and granted Monica Shahi, 37, her travel documents under the "O" category. She was elated after becoming the first person to receive such a passport from Nepal's foreign ministry.

"This is such an important and significant day. It feels great. But I am also hurt that neither the prime minister nor the foreign minister agreed to hand me the passport," Shahi said. "We made history today but our top leaders didn't want to be a part of it."

Transgender people were allowed to choose a separate category in other government documents earlier in Nepal, following a Supreme Court ruling. However, this is the first time a person has been permitted to choose a third gender category. Only a limited number of countries have the third category in travel documents, which could prove difficult for Shahi's travel in the future.

LGBT and rights activists have welcomed the move. "This recognition in the passport is the result of a long struggle and today we are proud that our country has taken this step," Pinky Gurung, president of LGBT group Blue Diamond Society, told the AFP news agency.

Nepal is known to have liberal laws pertaining to homosexuality and gay rights in the South Asia region. Nevertheless, transgender and gay people continue to face social discrimination despite clearing bureaucratic hurdles.