Nepal moves closer to allowing same-sex marriages

Nepal moved closer to achieving marriage equality earlier this month when the country’s Supreme Court ordered the government to introduce legislation allowing same-sex couples to wed.

In a decision handed down on 2nd May, a division of the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Hari Prasad Phuyal and Tanka Bahadur Moktan, ordered the government to change the country’s laws.

The decision followed legal move from Abhdeep Pokharel, who is a Nepalese citizen, and his spouse Tobias Volz, who is from Germany. They lodged their complaint after Volz was denied a tourist visa to enter the country, something he would not have had to apply for if the authorities recognised the couple’s marriage in Germany.

The court also drew attention to a 2015 report that recommended the legalisation of same-sex marriage, which the government had failed to act on.

In the ruling it was highlighted that there are many binary descriptions of gender and sexuality in Nepalese law that create difficulties for people from LGBTIQA+ communities. The court ruled that discriminatory statues relating to rape, marriage, inheritance, should also be amended to ensure equality.

While the courts have made similar orders in the past, this time round the pressure on the government to take action has been described as significantly greater.

“The Supreme Court has again drawn attention to the government’s lagging implementation of court orders to recognize same-sex relationships,” said Kyle Knight, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Nepal has a global reputation as a leader on LGBT rights, and the government needs to live up to it with a tangible policy change.”

“It has been 16 years since the Supreme Court ordered a government committee to study the issue of recognizing same-sex relationships and eight years since that committee told the government to take concrete and comprehensive action to recognize same sex relationships,” Knight said.

“The government should urgently examine the committee report and the court’s comprehensive analysis of legal changes that would afford same-sex couples in Nepal their equal rights.”

OIP Staff

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