Same-Sex Sexualities, Gender Variance, Economy and Livelihood in Nepal: Exclusions, Subjectivity and Development

IDS Evidence Report
Coyle, D and Boyce, P.
Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
Publication date: 
Tuesday, 10 February, 2015

This case study explores the relationship between socioeconomic opportunity and exclusion in relation to minority gender and sexualities in Nepal. The study, a component of a wider programme on Sexuality, Poverty and Law supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) and undertaken at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), aims to advance empirically grounded insights and recommendations to address the socioeconomic conditions of sexuality and gender minority peoples, in respect of varied aspects of life experience, subjectivity, self-identity and livelihood. Based on fieldwork conducted in Kathmandu, Nepal, between November 2013 and June 2014 the case study recounts experiences of socioeconomic marginalisation and opportunity as encountered and created by people who experience themselves as being different from socially normative conventions of sexuality and gender; in respect of the present research this has specifically entailed focusing on the experiences of transgender people and people who practise same-sex sexualities (and in respect of an understanding that such genders and sexualities are experienced differently by different people and do not represent uniform or singular categorisations). Many of the people who participated in the research evidence a multifaceted array of livelihood strategies as being connected to sexuality and gender difference. Some of these strategies were found to have been taken forward in the context of community-based support projects (for example, associated with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for sexual and gender minorities) while others were conceived as independent life choices, or experienced as arising out of lack of choice or economic opportunity. In each of these often interconnected circumstances, the relationship between sexuality, gender, economy and livelihood emerges as complex and ambivalent.

  • The poverty and poor socioeconomic conditions in which many sexual and gender minority peoples live should be addressed through holistic initiatives that extend beyond skills training 
  • Initiatives addressing discrimination and socioeconomic marginalisation should be mainstreamed within pre-existing development projects
  • Specifically within the context of Nepal, avenues for people of sexual and gender minority experience to receive formal recognition and certification of their education, skills and qualifications is imperative for chances to obtain employment
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