Engendering Minorities in Nepal: The Authority of Legal Discourse and the Production of Truth


Based on an anthropological analysis of Public Interest Litigation filed at the Supreme Court of Nepal on behalf of LGBTI rights, this article looks at the way in which invisible and unmentionable individuals were turned into an official minority, whose rights were to be enshrined in the constitution of Nepal (2015). It explores the mechanisms through which the performative utterance of the court shaped social realities in a context of conflicting public meanings, by establishing the “truth” about them. It shows, in particular, how the authority of the legal discourse was enlisted by activists and deployed by the Nepalese Supreme Court—through the judicial operations of codification, normalization, and institutionalization, in order to introduce new gender and sexual categories—and thus, to institutionalize a “new” minority based on these categories. It also analyzes how the overlapping authorities of scientific medical discourse, the international juridical framework, and the language of rights concur in empowering the activists’ claims and structuring the parallel discourse of the judges. Finally, it suggests that these authorities also concur, problematically, in defining the morphology of the “new” LGBTI minority and its official representations in a way that does not necessarily reflect local perceptions and self-representations.

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