Nepal registers first LGBTQ marriage in "milestone day"

Nepal - An LGBTQ couple has acquired a marriage certificate in Nepal, officials said Thursday, a first in South Asia and hailed by the pair as a win "for all."

Surendra Pandey (l.) and Maya Gurung, who is transgender, made history with the recognition of their marriage certificate in Nepal.
Surendra Pandey (l.) and Maya Gurung, who is transgender, made history with the recognition of their marriage certificate in Nepal.  © Prakash MATHEMA / AFP

Transgender woman Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey obtained a marriage certificate from a local ward in Nepal's Lamjung district on Wednesday.

"We are very happy and proud. This has finally happened," Gurung told AFP.

The couple held a Hindu marriage ceremony in 2017, and live together with their dog and cat.

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"This is a win not just for us but for all couples like us," she said.

In June, the Supreme Court issued an interim order allowing all same-sex and transgender couples to register their marriages, directing the government to establish a separate temporary register until laws are formulated.

Gurung (41) and Pandey, a 27-year-old man, were the first to apply at the district court, but it refused to register their marriage.

Their appeal was also rejected.

Nepal celebrates a big win for marriage equality

Surendra Pandey and Maya Gurung have paved the way for other LGBTQ+ Nepalese couples to register their marriages.
Surendra Pandey and Maya Gurung have paved the way for other LGBTQ+ Nepalese couples to register their marriages.  © Prakash MATHEMA / AFP

"We then approached the local authorities, who were much more open to listen," their lawyer Rounik Raj Aryal said.

Yubraj Adhikari, chairman of rural Dordi municipality in Lamjung district, said the registration certificate was issued after instructions from the Department of National ID and Civil Registration.

"The instructions were based on the Supreme Court's decision and they submitted all other required documents," Adhikari said.

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Many in the community were waiting for Gurung and Pandey to pave the way and register their marriage.

"It is a win after a decades-long battle for marriage equality. They have made history. It is a milestone day for us to celebrate," said LGBTQ rights activist Sunil Babu Pant.

Nepal already has some of South Asia's most progressive laws on homosexuality and transgender rights, with landmark reforms passed in 2007 prohibiting discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

A third gender category for citizenship documents was introduced in 2013, and Nepal began issuing passports with the "others" category two years later.

However, Nepali law had stayed silent on same-sex or transgender marriages despite a 2015 expert committee recommendation to legalize same-sex marriages following a Supreme Court order to enshrine the rights of sexual minorities.

The Supreme Court also ordered the government this year to recognize a non-heterosexual marriage of a Nepali with a foreigner and issue a spousal visa.

But the country's LGBTQ+ community – estimated at more than 900,000-strong – still faces discrimination, particularly for jobs, health, and education.

Cover photo: Prakash MATHEMA / AFP

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