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Nepal’s Historic Milestone: First Recognized Same-Sex Marriage

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Nepal, the sole country in the Indian subcontinent to legalize same-sex unions, recently marked a historic moment by officially recognizing the marriage of a queer couple. This landmark decision follows an interim order by the Supreme Court in June, permitting the registration of same-sex marriages. Maya Gurung, a 35-year-old transgender woman, and Surendra Pandey, a 27-year-old cisgender male, who have been together for nearly a decade, sought legal recognition of their union, culminating in the formal registration of their marriage in the Lamjung district of western Nepal.

LEGAL TRANSFORMATIONS: NEPAL’S 16-YEAR EVOLUTION IN QUEER RIGHTS

While Nepal awaits comprehensive legislation on same-sex unions, the Supreme Court’s directive in June allowed registrations to commence immediately. Notably, Nepal joins the ranks of 36 countries globally that embrace same-sex marriages. The journey to recognition for Gurung and Pandey faced hurdles, with a district court in Kathmandu initially rejecting their union on July 13. However, recent changes by Nepal’s home ministry streamlined the process, empowering all local administration offices to register same-sex marriages.

“Nepal’s recognition of same-sex marriage is a testament to the country’s commitment to equality and human rights.”

FROM ‘THIRD GENDER’ TO MARRIAGE EQUALITY: NEPAL’S PROGRESSIVE PATH

In a broader context, Nepal’s progress in LGBTQ+ rights is a culmination of legal transformations initiated in 2007 when the Supreme Court abolished laws discriminating against homosexuality. Subsequent reforms addressed the rights of gender and sexual minorities, leading to the recognition of a third gender category and the inclusion of ‘third gender’ in electoral rolls and federal census. The 2015 Constitution and civil code granted special protections and prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Despite these advancements, legal recognition of same-sex marriage remained absent until the recent Supreme Court ruling in June 2023. The court emphasized the violation of constitutional and international human rights obligations in denying recognition to same-sex spouses. The ruling prompted amendments to the Nepal Civil Code, and registration of same-sex marriages is now a reality.

AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE COURT’S JUNE 2023 RULING AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

In contrast, other Asian countries, such as Taiwan, have also embraced same-sex unions, while countries like India have decriminalized homosexuality without legalizing same-sex marriage. The broader Asian landscape reflects varied stances on LGBTQ+ rights, with ongoing discussions and developments in several nations. The recent survey by the Pew Research Center underscores the diverse attitudes towards same-sex marriages in the region, with differing levels of support and opposition across countries like Japan, Vietnam, India, Taiwan, Singapore, and others.

“While Nepal and Taiwan lead in recognizing same-sex unions in Asia, the region witnesses a varied landscape in queer rights progress.”

In conclusion, Nepal’s recognition of the marriage of Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey signifies a significant stride in LGBTQ+ rights in the Asian subcontinent, showcasing the evolving landscape of acceptance and legal acknowledgment of diverse relationships.

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