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Nepal’s Historic Achievement on Marriage Equality

Becomes the Second Country in Asia to Register Same Sex Marriage

Same-sex couple Surendra Pandey, left, and Maya Gurung, celebrate an interim order issued by the country's Supreme Court enabling the registration of same-sex marriages for the first time, Kathmandu, Nepal, June 29, 2023.  © 2023 Niranjan Shrestha/AP Photos

Hundreds of same-sex couples in Nepal will soon be able to legally register their marriages following a landmark Supreme Court ruling on June 28 which cleared the way for marriage equality in the country.

Although Nepal’s civil code currently describes marriage as being between a man and a woman, Justice Til Pradad Shrestha ordered the government to immediately begin registering same-sex marriages while it prepares legislation to amend the law.

Sunil Pant, who was previously Nepal’s first openly gay member of parliament and is a leading campaigner on the issue said, “People are already celebrating. They are rushing back to their villages to collect documents for their marriages.” He estimated that around 200 same-sex couples may register their marriages in the coming months.

Nepal’s Supreme Court has a widely admired record of rulings upholding LGBT rights, although implementation has sometimes been slow. In 2007, the court ordered the government to form a committee to prepare a law legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2015 that committee recommended the government “grant legal recognition to same-sex marriage on the basis of the principle of equality.” However, successive governments failed to bring legislation, leading to further court rulings. In March this year the court ordered the government to recognize the marriage of a same sex couple who had married in Germany.

In its latest ruling the court appears to have lost patience with the government’s delays and ordered registrations to begin without waiting for new legislation. Nepal’s 2015 constitution prohibits gender discrimination and upholds the rights of sexual minorities.

The ruling is a historic moment for equal rights in Nepal. The cabinet and parliament should now move quickly to amend the law.

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