Nepal recognises same-sex marriages in historic ruling

Nepal became the first South Asian country to register same-sex marriages and the second country in Asia to do so.

Flag of the country of Nepal with a mountain in the background. Nepal recently became the second Asian country to recognise same-sex marriages.
Image: Samrat Khadka via Unsplash

In a historic ruling on 28 June, the Supreme Court of Nepal requested that the country’s government begin registering same-sex marriages, making Nepal the second country in Asia and the first country in South Asia to register LGBTQ+ unions. 

The temporary injunction from Justice Til Pradad Shrestha allows same-sex couples to achieve legal recognition of their marriage while the Court presses the country’s legislature to permanently amend Nepal’s marriage law, which currently defines marriage as strictly heterosexual.

The court has historically been progressive when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, ruling in 2007 and 2015 that the government should legalise same-sex marriage. Last week’s ruling indicates that the Supreme Court is standing firm on its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and equality.

Openly-gay legislator Sunil Pant, who has been at the centre of the campaign for marriage equality in the country, said that over 200 queer couples “are rushing back to their villages to collect documents for their marriages” after news of the ruling broke. Many of these couples have one or both partners identifying as third gender, a category broadly defining people who identify as transgender or with an indigenous third gender commonly referred to in Nepal as Meti. Previously, the legal status as a third gender prevented them from registering their same-sex marriages.

Many people took to the streets of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, to mark the ruling, with Shrestha commenting that “people are already celebrating.” The country’s legislature must now act to codify same-sex marriage into law and amend the previous definitions of marriage found in Nepal’s legal codes. 



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At the time of the ruling, Taiwan stood as the only other Asian country that has legalised same-sex marriages. India began hearing cases for marriage equality within its Supreme Court a few months ago, but the fate of this historic case has yet to be decided. 

Although the ruling in Nepal hasn’t changed the country’s legal codes on same-sex marriages, it’s still a significant step closer to achieving LGBTQ+ equality in Asia.

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