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Nepal apex court okays same-sex marriage

The apex court of Nepal has given its nod to marriages between same-sex in the Himalayan republic

Kathmandu: Close on the heels of an international furore over the state of California's decision to ban same-sex marriages, the apex court of Himalayan republic Nepal has given its nod to such unions.

"My eyes were filled with tears when I read the Supreme Court decision," said Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal's first publicly gay lawmaker and a gay rights icon in South Asia.

"We, the gay community of Nepal, are the most proud citizens," Pant said.

Pant's exultation came after the Supreme Court on Monday delivered full judgement regarding a ground-breaking verdict it had announced last year, recognising sexual minorities, who were among the most oppressed in conservative, patriarchal Nepali society, as being born such and entitled to all the rights and remedies all other Nepali citizens enjoyed.

Now, following up on the judgement, the top court has asked the Maoist government to form a seven-member committee to study same sex partnership and marriage acts in other countries and recommend a similar act to the Nepal government.

The court has also asked the government—that is scheduled to promulgate a new constitution by 2010—to ensure that the language of the new statute does not discriminate against the sexual minorities.

Also striking a blow for transgenders, who were the butt of abuse for crossdressing, the court has ruled that crossdressing is not perversion but an individual's freedom of expression.

Nepal's beleaguered and reviled gay community got a boost for their rights in 2006, after the fall of king Gyanendra's army-backed government which had clamped down on the community's rights and seen them join the nationwide public protests against the royal regime.

In August 2006, four months after the king's exit as head of government, Pant's gay rights organisation Blue Diamond Society supported the first publicly conducted gay wedding in Nepal.

The first same sex marriage, however, came unstuck since then with one of the partners being a drug abuser.

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