In a surprising victory for LGBTQ+ rights, Nepal has become the first historically conservative South Asia nation to accept same-sex unions formally. On June 28, the Supreme Court of Nepal decided that all same-sex weddings must be officially registered.
While legislation to change the law is being written, Supreme Court Judge Til Prasad Shrestha issued an interim order directing the Nepalese government to start registering same-sex weddings and non-traditional heterosexual relationships right away. The Supreme Court ordered a separate wedding register to be established for same-sex couples, purportedly granting same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, unless a new legal framework is adopted to support same-sex unions forever.
Sunil Pant, a prominent advocate for marriage equality in Nepal and formerly the only openly homosexual member of parliament, spoke of the triumphant response to the decision. “People are already celebrating,” Human Rights Watch reported him as saying. “They are rushing back to their villages to collect documents for their marriages.” According to Pant, 200 same-sex unions could be registered in the upcoming months.
The decision came after LGBTQ+ campaigners submitted a petition in June demanding the enforcement of previous decisions. The Nepalese government has been given orders from 2007 to recognise same-sex marriage and set up a committee to draw a law to make it lawful. However, each new administration has delayed its heels and failed to pass new legislation.
Opponents of Nepal’s Supreme Court’s order are asked to submit their concerns within two weeks.
As a result of a landmark court decision, Nepal is the first country in South Asia to embrace marital equality. The same-sex union of two people is still not permitted in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, or the Maldives. Only Taiwan has legalised same-sex marriage on the Asian continent.
In India, the world’s most populous democracy’s top court’s five-judge panel started debating whether to provide marital equality to its people in April.