Nepal becomes first South Asian country to register same-sex marriage


Nepal has become the first South Asian country to register a same-sex marriage.

Ram Bahadur (Maya) Gurung, a 36-year-old transgender female who has not changed her gender on official documents, and Surendra Pandey, 26, who was born and identifies as male, had their marriage certified at the Dordi rural municipality office in west Nepal on Wednesday.

It is a landmark moment in a largely conservative country which earlier this year cleared the way for the legalisation of gay marriages.

The couple have been in a relationship for nine years and were wedded according to Hindu rituals in 2016 in the capital Kathmandu – but had no certificate to show for it.

Surendra Pandey (L) and Maya Gurung were married in 2016 according to Hindu rituals

Officials had initially refused to register their marriage and consequent court cases which they filed with Kathmandu’s District and High Courts were dismissed.

However, the country’s Home Ministry made changes this week enabling all local administration offices to register same-sex marriages, according to Sunil Pant, an openly gay former parliamentarian and leading LGBTQ+ rights activist.

Mr Pant hailed the registration as a “historic achievement” calling it a victory for sexual and gender minorities who have yearned for equal rights.

He said: “After 23 years of struggle we got this historic achievement, and finally Maya and Surendra got their marriage registered at the local administration office.

“It was quite unexpected and it was a positive breeze for us.”

After the registration, Mr Pandey said: “We are both very happy. Like us, all others in our community are happy too.”

Mr Pant said the newlyweds would be “like just any other couple” as they would be able to jointly open bank accounts, and own and transfer property.

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Nepal has become increasingly progressive since a decade-long Maoist insurgency ended in 2006, leading to more emphasis on its government to accommodate LGBT people with its laws.

Now, people who don’t identify as male or female can choose “third gender” on their passports and other official documents.

Taiwan is the only other Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage.

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