LGBTQ rights activists and couples in Nepal on Thursday were celebrating an interim order issued by the country’s Supreme Court enabling the registration of same-sex marriages for the first time.
The Supreme Court issued the order on Wednesday allowing for the temporary registration of marriages for same-sex and non-traditional couples.
The decision represented a leap forward for activists and others who have long sought to amend the laws to permit same-sex marriage and end provisions that limit marriage to heterosexual couples.
“At a personal level, for those who are living together it is a huge victory. Practically, they can register their marriage and their rights can be immediately exercised,” said Sunil Babu Pant, an openly gay former parliamentarian and leading LGBTQ rights activist in Nepal.
“This is very important because it allows the couple to go and register their marriage and start living as a couple legally,” Pant said.
Since a court decision in 2007 asking the government to make changes in favor of LGBTQ people, Nepal has undergone major changes. People who do not identify as female or male are now able to choose “third gender” on their passports and other government documents. The new constitution also explicitly states there can be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In May 2023, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a same-sex couple who had been married in Germany only to find their marriage not recognized in Nepal. The court used the case to emphasize that failing to recognize same-sex marriages is a violation of the Nepali Constitution, but did not immediately legalize such marriages. Instead, it ordered the government to take action.
Now the Supreme Court has taken matters into its own hands through its interim order allowing for the registration of same-sex marriages. The court also ordered the government to establish a separate register of marriages for same-sex couples. It was not clear when the court would make its final decision on the case.
Same-sex couples were celebrating the court order.
Surendra Pandey and his partner Maya Gurung said they were relieved to be able to finally register their marriage with the authorities.
The couple got married six years ago at a temple following Hindu tradition with a priest conducting the rituals among friends and family. They have not received any certificate to show their marriage is legal.
“I am overwhelmed with joy because of this decision, and it is a day of commemoration for our community,” Gurung said. “This court ruling has established that we are equal citizens of this country.”
The couple said they would likely have to wait a few more days to register with the government but would continue to campaign until the laws are permanently changed in the country.