Could Marriage Equality be a Reality in Nepal ?

Marty Rouse/Pahichan – Marriage equality first arrived in the United States in 2004 when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is gender discrimination. One-by-one, other states, including New York, began legalizing same-sex marriage. Finally, in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic decision asserting that gay and lesbian couples have the Constitutional right to marriage equality in all 50 states.

I have been involved in the marriage equality movement since 2004, and, as National Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), helped my organization become the leading advocate in the campaign to win the right for same-sex couples to marry across America.

Nepal’s new Constitution, promulgated in September 2015, prohibits discrimination based on gender or sexual minority status. This makes Nepal a leader for its treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, and allows a robust conversation about the continuing needs of Nepal’s marginalized gay and lesbian couples.

Nepal is to be celebrated for acknowledging gender diversity with its official third gender (‘Other’) category designation on passports and official documents, and for the increasing levels of visibility and acceptance transgender people have achieved through long and arduous work.

As the words of Nepal’s new Constitution become reality for its citizens, the nation’s LGBTI community and allies also have a historic opportunity to educate their leaders on the needs of gay and lesbian couples and families.

My experience in America has shown the power of diverse people coming together to make positive social change and achieve justice. Nepal has the opportunity to become the 21st country in the world — and the first in Asia — to grant full marriage equality. Groups like Blue Diamond Society and CORE Nepal have helped educate the country on the needs of LGBTI Nepalis and that work must continue. However, if marriage equality is to become a reality in Nepal, other groups and allies advocating for equality and other leaders across the country must speak up to educate elected officials and others about the needs of gay and lesbian couples.

Finally, it is important for everyone who supports LGBTI equality in Nepal to make it safe for gay and lesbian couples to be more visible. Those whose rights are being impacted must feel able to speak out.

Let us all work together to identify and lift up the voices of the many who are now invisible. Let us make it safe for them to come forward and speak about their lived realities without shame or harm. Together we can make Nepal a more inclusive country that treats all of its people fairly.

To learn more about the work that HRC is doing around the world, click here.

By Marty Rouse, National Field Director, Human Rights Campaign (U.S.A)