30 Nov 2023

Nepal registers first same-sex marriage hailed as win for LGBT rights

9:18 pm on 30 November 2023

By Rama Parajuli and Nicholas Yong

(FILES) In this picture taken on August 30, 2023, Surendra Pandey (L) and Maya Gurung, a transgender woman, take part in an interview with AFP in Kathmandu. An LGBTQ couple has acquired a marriage certificate in Nepal, officials said on November 30, a first in South Asia and hailed by the pair as a win "for all". Transgender woman Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey obtained a marriage certificate from a local ward in Nepal's Lamjung district the previous day. (Photo by Prakash MATHEMA / AFP)

Surendra Pandey and Maya Gurung have been together for almost a decade and wed in a temple ceremony in 2017, but their marriage has only just received legal recognition (file photo taken on 30 August 2023). Photo: AFP

Nepal has registered its first same-sex marriage, following a protracted legal battle by the couple and activists.

Authorities in the western Lumjung district formally registered the union of Maya Gurung, 35, and Surendra Pandey, 27, on Wednesday.

It came five months after the Supreme Court issued an interim order allowing same-sex couples to register their marriages.

Taiwan is the only other place in Asia that has legalised same-sex marriage.

Gurung told the BBC that their registration was a "big day" not just for the couple, but all sexual minorities.

"The fight for rights is not easy. We have done it. And it will be easier for future generations," she said. "The registration has opened doors to a lot of things for us."

The couple had said that they wanted to open a joint bank account and share ownership of the land they bought. But their biggest dream was to adopt a child, once their finances were more stable.

They have been together for almost a decade. The couple wed in a temple ceremony in 2017 and had sought legal recognition of their union this year.

Gurung is a transgender woman who has not changed her gender on official documents. Pandey was born and identifies as male.

On 13 July, a district court in Nepal's capital Kathmandu, refused to register their marriage despite the Supreme Court's order that directed the government to register such unions until it prepared legislation to change the law.

The district court had argued that lower courts were not bound to follow the order as it was only directed at the government.

But on Wednesday, Hem Raj Kafle, chief administrative officer of the Dordi rural municipality, told Reuters: "We have issued the marriage registration certificate to the couple in consideration of the Supreme Court order and instructions from relevant government authorities".

Leading LGBT rights activist Sunil Babu Pant called the "historic" moment a victory for sexual and gender minorities.

"Now we can register our marriage as do the regular couples. But we still have to do more to get other rights," he told the BBC.

- This story was first published by the BBC

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