Legal Roadblock in Nepal’s Marriage Equality Movement

Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey, a same-sex couple in Nepal, were on the verge of making history by becoming the country’s first legally married same-sex couple. However, their dreams were shattered when the district court in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, refused to register their marriage. This setback poses a challenge to the progress Nepal has made in improving legal protections and social acceptance for sexual minorities. The LGBTQ community, led by organizations like Blue Diamond Society, still has a long fight ahead to achieve marriage equality.

The interim order from Nepal’s Supreme Court directed the government to register same-sex unions until legislation was enacted to change the law. This order brought relief to many same-sex couples, who saw it as a historic victory. However, the district court’s refusal to register Maya and Surendra’s marriage highlights the complexities and challenges faced by sexual minorities in obtaining legal recognition.

The legal battle for marriage equality in Nepal is far from over. The couple has lodged an appeal at a High Court in Patan, but the hearing has been postponed multiple times. This delay further prolongs the injustice faced by the entire sexual and gender minority community. The Supreme Court, which has often favored LGBTQ rights, holds the key to unlocking marriage equality for aspiring couples.

Maya and Surendra’s struggle to register their marriage reflects the arduous process they had to navigate. Before approaching the court, they had to travel to Surendra’s village in Nawalparasi, enduring a grueling 12-hour journey due to monsoon rains and landslides. Obtaining recommendation letters from the local government and proof of residence letters from the ward office added further hurdles to their path. Maya, who had been previously married to a woman, also had to provide documents proving her divorce to marry again.

Maya’s journey as a transgender woman has been marked by societal pressure and personal hardships. Despite not identifying with her assigned sex from a young age, she was forced into a marriage that eventually led to depression. In 2013, she filed for divorce, coinciding with Nepal’s issuance of third gender citizenship certificates. This landmark ruling recognized and affirmed the rights of transgender individuals. In 2015, Maya met Surendra, whose attraction to men became intertwined with his love for Maya.

The couple’s perseverance and determination to openly express their love resulted in a joyous Hindu temple wedding ceremony in Kathmandu in 2017. Surrounded by family and friends, they celebrated with music and dance, reflecting their commitment to each other and their shared future.

Yet, their dreams of financial stability, joint bank accounts, and adoption are on hold until their marriage is officially recognized. They remain hopeful for a favorable outcome and are ready to take their case to the Supreme Court if necessary. The impact of this legal roadblock reaches beyond Maya and Surendra; it reverberates throughout Nepal’s LGBTQ community, denying them the basic right to marry and enjoy the legal protections and benefits that come with it.

Nepal holds a unique position in Asia as a country that has made significant progress in LGBTQ rights. However, this legal setback raises concerns about the future of marriage equality in Nepal. It serves as a reminder that progress must be constantly defended and reinforced, as there are still many hurdles to overcome on the path to full acceptance and equality.

The struggle faced by Maya and Surendra underscores the broader need for societal and legal changes to foster inclusivity and acceptance of sexual minorities. Organizations like Blue Diamond Society, which have been at the forefront of the movement, continue to fight for equal rights and protections. The fight for marriage equality in Nepal must persist, ensuring that all LGBTQ individuals can proudly celebrate their love and have their relationships legally recognized.