On Tuesday, 23-year-old Rukshana Kapali went to the Tri-Chandra Multiple Campus to submit her registration form for the second-year bachelor’s exams.
But they refused to accept her form saying she was not registered as a student at Tribhuvan University.
“They refused to receive my registration form, citing an updated system from Tribhuvan University that requires a registration number to enter an exam form into the system,” said Kapali, who is also an activist focusing on trans rights and Nepal Bhasa.
Kapali does not have a university registration number as she was denied registration by the Office of the Examination Controller in 2017.
The reason? Her sex.
Kapali’s sex assigned at birth was male, also reflected in her School Leaving Certificate (SLC).
However, Kapali has legally changed gender to female and acquired many of his documents as a result.
Despite the change, Nepal Board of Education refused to change Kapali’s gender in its SLC documents in 2016. Consequently, TU refused to officially register Kapali as a student, but allowed her to attend classes and take exams.
“I was told that I could take classes and that the academic council was looking into my registration problem,” Kapali said. “It has been five years already.
For Kapali, it’s still 2017. His registration is still pending. There is a public outcry against this on social media, and Office of the Comptroller of Examinations officials have said she will be able to pass her exams.
“We will fill out his form and update the system. She will be able to take her exams,” said Pushpa Raj Joshi, the Controller of Exams, TU. “Under the current registration system, only men and women are accepted as gender. We need to make changes to our system.
But Kapali is not asking to be recognized as ‘other’, but to be recognized as ‘woman’ – the gender mentioned in her upper secondary school diplomas.
Tuesday’s incident, however, is not an isolated iron door Kapali has had to navigate while pursuing his educational goals.
In January 2022, the Purbanchal University refused to provide Kapali with admission card to sit for his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws exams.
Next to a social media uproar and public pressure, the university finally gave him an admission card just an hour before his exams. Such is her ordeal, but trans people like Kapali face discrimination daily despite political advances and hard-fought advocacy over the past two decades.
A Supreme Court decision in December 2007 paved the way for rights now guaranteed by the Constitution for sexual and gender minorities, including the fight against discrimination and the right to equality. But when it comes to practice, the realities on the ground contrast with progressive laws on paper. Gay people also continue to face constant harassment and attacks, and some have even been murdered.
“Compared to other countries, Nepal seems quite progressive. But although some of our rights are guaranteed by the constitution, there are no laws and policies that guarantee its implementation,” said Bhumika Shrestha, Vice President of the Federation of Sexual and Gender Minorities.
“Legislators and bureaucrats responsible for enforcing these laws have no knowledge or understanding. Due to these challenges, we constantly encounter obstacles along the way. »
And the lack of implementation and understanding reflects government inaction and systemic barriers. From the lack of trans-inclusive voting centers in recent local elections to the ongoing confusion in legal documents, the government has failed to remove systemic barriers for trans people.
In the 2021 census, gender was also restricted to men, women and “others” despite government attempts to recognize the queer population. Many queer people were forced to select the “other” category even though “they did not identify with the gender marker”.
Kapali’s case, which prevents her from pursuing her educational goals, is another form of systemic violence, neglect and humiliation that trans people face daily. Only his ordeals are widely known due to his relentless activism on and off social media and legal battles.
“Will I receive my certificate of academic achievement? Will my bachelor’s degree be valid? Will my exam results be published? Kapali asked. “I’m always behind in life. I’ve been pushed into the dark. My career, my educational aspirations are all in the dark.
An earlier version of this story said that “same-sex marriage” is a constitutionally guaranteed right. The Supreme Court’s decision only paved the way for the formulation of same-sex partnership and marriage law based on the laws of other countries.
The story has also been updated to clarify that Kapali is asking to be recognized as a “woman”.