Nepal will count a third gender in its next population census, for the first time counting LGBT people as a minority group that can be allocated government jobs and education.
The LGBT community in the Himalayan nation has long demanded the census taken every 10 years count sexual minorities.
Nepal's laws prescribe special quotas for minorities in workplaces, schools and colleges, and access to discounted healthcare, but LGBT people say the absence of census data omits them from such programs.
Dhundi Raj Lamichane, an official at Nepal's Central Bureau of Statistics, said Thursday the national census is planned for summer of 2021 but a trial will be done next month in selected districts.
Citizens will be able to identify themselves as male, female or other gender.
Though the change is specific to gender rather than any person's sexual identity, activists welcomed it as increasing the visibility of the LGBT community. They estimate about 900,000 of Nepal's 29 million people are LGBT.
“This is a big step in our campaign. This will help establish our identity as a minority group in Nepal," said Sarita K.C. of Mitini Nepal.
Sexual minorities have made significant progress securing rights in Nepal in recent years. The constitution adopted in 2015 forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, reaffirming a 2008 Supreme Court ruling. Citizenship certificates and passports now offer a “non-male, non-female” option in the gender category.