Nepal has yet to legalize same sex marriage, leaving couples disoriented

Queer rights activists have been fighting for legalization of same sex marriage for the past 14 years but there is still no sign of response from the state.

Although Nepal’s law does not legalize same sex marriage, people are still free to live together or have a traditional marriage ceremony. Photo: Freepik

Anushka Nepal

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Lockdown was harsh for everyone, but it was even tougher for the people who were unable to legalize their marriage.

Among those who were yet unable to legalize their same sex marriage, there were 30 suicides and 20 suicide attempts during the period of lockdown, according to Pinky Gurung, the president of Blue Diamond Society (BDS), an organization fighting for the rights of queer community in Nepal. 

Same sex marriage has yet not been legalized in Nepal, which has left many people uncertain about their relationship’s future. The reason for these suicides and suicide attempts is the mental pressure and trauma the people with same sex marriage face on a daily basis, said Gurung. She added that the couples live with uncertainty about the future of their relationships, and what their relationship status is going to be like in the future.

“They are in constant dilemmas like ‘Will we ever get legal marital status?’, “Will society accept our marriage?’, ‘Will we ever get to adopt a child and have our own family?’—dilemmas that are too much to take for some people, which is one of the major reason for self harm, mental trauma and even suicide,” Gurung said.

Although Nepal’s constitution states that there “shall be no discrimination when it comes to sex or matrimonial status” among various other things, people with same sex love interest are still deprived of the legal documentation that declares them and their partner to be a married couple.

The National Civil Code of Nepal, however, contradicts the constitution, declaring marriage to be a union between “a man and a woman”, which defies the very condition of a same sex marriage.

“We feel like our relationship is an abyss, since we don’t know what title to give to our relationship. We don’t have anything that proves us to be a married couple,” said Diya Subba, who wanted to be identified with a pseudonym for privacy reasons. Subba tied the knot with a woman amid a traditional function. But the couple’s consummation is not legally recognized. 

“We have been accepted by our friends and family, but the country is still behind on seeing our relationship as a marriage,” said Priya Lama, who also didn’t want to be identified by her real name, adding that she is eagerly waiting for her marriage to be legalized.

Although Nepal’s law does not legalize same sex marriage, people are still free to live together or have a traditional marriage ceremony. Not having a legal provision, however, sets them back in many other aspects.

The couple are deprived of any forms of child adoption or even a marriage certificate. They are unable to give their marriage any form of legal title, which deprives them from getting a visa or other privileges that come with a marriage certificate. “We are not even able to travel abroad as a married couple, since we are undocumented,” said Subba.

Although Nepal’s constitution states that there “shall be no discrimination when it comes to sex or matrimonial status” among various other things, people with same sex love interest are still deprived of the legal documentation

Gurung said that BDS had filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court demanding legalization of same sex marriage in 2007. That same year, the Court formed a seven-member committee to study the legalization of same sex marriage, whose reports were submitted to the President’s offfice in 2015, according to Advocate Sujan Panta, who has been working to advance queer rights. The report was then forwarded to the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfares. But 14 years later, there has been hardly any progress.

Bharat Sharma, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, admitted that the process of legalization has been delayed but said that they are still working on it to “cover all aspects of the legalization”.

“Legalization comes with other various aspects like child adoption, custody after divorce, property division and so on, which takes a little more time to come to a conclusion,” Sharma said, citing reasons behind the delay.

Gurung, on the other hand, believes that our society is not yet ready to accept same sex marriages and that in turn contributed to authorities dithering on legalization.

Gurung does not think that same sex marriage will ever have a bad influence on society, as many with a conservative mindset would believe. Right now, there are many who have been forced to get married to people who do not conform to their preferred sexual orientations. That affects both partners as they will not have a happy married life since the choice comes to a clash, Gurung said.

“There are many cases where a partner runs away, or both the couple go through a mental trauma and distress, which I believe can be avoided with legalization of same sex marriage,” she added.

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