After historic SC ruling, Nepal’s first same-sex couple to continue fight for further recognition

Public TV English
Public TV English
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KATHMANDU: Getting clicked with their marriage registration certificate was no less than holding a victory trophy for Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey — Nepal’s first gay couple — who got the recognition of their marriage in a historic development for the Himalayan nation.

Maya, officially recorded as Ram Prasad Gurung with Nepali database, later changed the name to female meaning ‘Love’ on Wednesday (November 29, 2023) formally registered marriage — between a transwoman and a cisman — at her hometown in Lamjung.

“It became one of the moment, which I cannot forget in my lifetime. Our marriage was registered (temporarily) on the interim order of the Supreme Court. I want to thank all the authorities of the Government of Nepal who played a role in making it happen”, Maya Gurung aka Ram Prasad Gurung, told media as she sat alongside her husband Surendra Pandey in Kathmandu on Friday.

Maya and Surendra, both identified as male by birth had fought a long legal battle for recognition of their marriage status. On June 28, 2023, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued an interim order directing the Government of Nepal to register same-sex marriage “temporarily”.

“After a long fight, we have got legal recognition, the sexual minorities like us are thrilled with this step. Those who are awaiting for registration and legal recognition are happy with the decision”, Surendra Pandey said.

The Dordi Rural Council in Lamjung district had issued the marriage certificate with the comment “As per the orders from the Supreme Court, this marriage has been recorded temporarily”.

Around six years back, the couple got married in Kathmandu following Hindu traditions. However, the lack of legal provisions had created a roadblock for them as they couldn’t get official recognition, curtailing their right to access various governmental services. They couldn’t open a joint account as a couple, register their business or purchase land as their sexuality wasn’t recognized and registered by the authorities.

“That marriage was conducted with the support of society and family, rejuvenating in the beats of ‘Panche Baja’ traditional Nepali folk musical instrument, now we are served justice. My happiness had no bounds on that day, the local community where I was born hosted a celebratory event, my happiness has no bounds”, Gurung said.

As per the couple, the villagers, on the day of registration, came together feasting, singing and dancing as a celebration of the whole village. The couple now plans to work for the empowerment of the sexual minorities in the Himalayan mation by providing them with life-surviving training.

“For the benefit of the upcoming generation, we are planning to provide them with training so that they don’t have to face the problem like us. We are happy with the decision but we will continue to fight further for full recognition”, Maya added.

Surendra and Maya had tried to register their marriage at the Kathmandu District Court, but were sent back denying registration despite the order from the Supreme Court. Saddened by the denial from the District Court, the same-sex couple had continued their fight to get recognition. They went to the National Identity Card and Registration Department which further directed for the registration of the marriage.

“It’s a long battle, it’s 23 years of struggle, but particularly on the marriage front, the 2007 verdict of the Supreme Court clearly spelt out and issued a directive order to the government of Nepal that it should form a committee to study same-sex marriage — the social, legal and other implications; what sort of laws should be passed. They did a long study and submitted a report in 2014 that Nepal should allow a full gay marriage or same-sex marriage. But the government had not done anything”, Sunil Babu Panta, an LGBTIQ+ activist said.

Despite the submission of the report, the Law Ministry of Nepal raised concerns over the allowance of same-sex marriage implicating it would increase the burden for the state. Law formation has snarled since then which prompted the activists to file a writ petition with the Supreme Court which issued the interim order opening way for the same-sex marriage in the Himalayan nation.

In June, a single bench of Judge Til Prasad Shrestha issued an interim order directing the authorities to make necessary arrangements to register the marriages of sexual minorities. Gaining temporary recognition, Surendra and Maya have become a role model in LGBTIQ+ community.

In the order, the Supreme Court stated clause 69 (1) of the Civil Code 2074 has stated that a person has the right of marriage and Nepal’s Constitution clause 18 (1) states equality. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court, a decade-and-a-half back, had allowed sexual minorities to marry, but the Civil Code of the nation hasn’t approved same-sex marriage.

In the latest round of orders, the Supreme Court has further ordered the government to provide a written response regarding the legal framework pertaining to the registration of marriages for the same sex. The Himalayan nation, buffered between two giants China and India, has a progressive legal provisions regarding sexual minorities than any other country in the region.

Having one of the progressive Constitutions to grant rights and recognition to sexual minorities, Nepal from the last census of 2021, has started collecting data for LGBTQI+ as well. Though the newly promulgated constitution of Nepal in September 2015 has special provisions for sexual minorities, the group has been demanding to complete its implementation.

The government had promised to provide the group with citizenship on the basis of sexual orientation, but the condition isn’t that favourable when it goes into implementation. The minorities have been voicing for same-sex marriage which they claim would give them a chance to live life that of heterosexuals.

As per the latest census of 2021, there are a total of 2,928 people who identified themselves as “others” in terms of gender or sexual orientation. The census of 2021 also set the mark as the first census of the nation to start recording the population of sexual minorities. (ANI)

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