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Nepal Legally Recognises First Lesbian Marriage

The Country’s Progressive Step is the First in South Asia

By: Emily Reid

On February 11th 2024, Nepal recognised its first legal marriage between two women. Anju Devi Shrestha and Suprita Gurung, on Sunday, had their marriage registered at Jamuna Rural Municipality of Bardiya district. Shrestha and Gurung, both 33, have created history in Nepal by becoming the first lesbian couple to officially register their marriage.

Image by Boris Štromar from Pixabay

The couple, who had been in a relationship for over five years, received their marriage certificate in less than a month. Their marriage certificate was handed to them by Ward Secretary Dipak Nepal, news outlets were told by Sunil Babu Pant, an LGBTQ+ rights activist and former member of Parliament. Said Sunil Babu Pant, “Now we can register our marriage as do the regular couples. But we still have to do more to get other rights.”

Pant, who is known as Nepal’s first openly gay parliamentarian, claimed that despite this move forward, several local government authorities have had a hand in preventing approximately 200 same-sex couples from registering their marriages. While Nepal’s civil code, enacted in 2018, only recognises marriage between a man and a woman, the country’s highest court sought to address this limitation by ordering the establishment of a provisional registry for non-traditional marriages until legislation is enacted.

Nepal’s Constitution, which was ratified in 2015, does not address marriages between people of the same sex. Article 18 of the Constitution, however, acknowledges LGBTQ+ individuals as a recognised disadvantaged group, granting them protection as sexual and gender minorities.

This event marks Nepal as the second Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage, following Taiwan which legalised marriage equality in 2019. Additionally, Nepal was the first South Asian country to have formally registered same-sex marriage. On November 29th of last year, Maya Gurung, 35, and Surendra Pandey, 27, legally registered their marriage.

A non-governmental organisation Mayako Pacichan Nepal, meaning “Recognition of Love”, expressed happiness over the official recognition of same-sex marriage in a statement:

“The Nepalese LGBT communities have launched a campaign for identity-based rights of the sexual minority communities since 2001 and the campaign has become successful in getting officially registered same-sex marriage after more than two decades of struggle,” The General Secretary of Mayako Pahichan Nepal, Surendra Pandey, said a press conference was organised on Monday to formally make public the first lesbian marriage and to celebrate the occasion.

In light of this ruling, Nepal is making important progress in LGBTQ+ rights, by recognising and recording same-sex marriage. The country is leading an initiative for fellow countries to pursue marriage equality, with Thailand expected to follow suit.


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