Same-sex marriage in Nepal: Love story of first lesbian couple; Suprita, Dipti

Same-sex marriage in Nepal: Love story of first lesbian couple; Suprita, Dipti

Kathmandu: She should be approached cautiously. On the outside, she seems to be difficult to understand. However, she is kind inside and has a tender heart.

She has identified herself with the identity she got at birth. She has a woman friend. One of them seems masculine in nature and getups. Their relations that began after meeting on the social media, Facebook translated to marriage on October 12, 2020.

Suprita Gurung, who lives in the United Kingdom, sent a Facebook friend request to Anju Devi Shrestha (Dipti). It was Suprita’s first love proposal.

Marriage takes place between girls? They are constantly facing this question on a regular basis. Suprita shares her days of hardship while Dipti does not hesitate to share her experiences after marriage.

However, their relations have given happiness to both of them, and the couple feel joy when they look at their photos on Facebook. They have got support from many people.

Dipti was feeling bored while walking on the road. At the same time, Facebook messenger popped up. She replied within two minutes. Sharing her first messenger reply, she says, “Initially, I talked just for timepass. But it has been for lifelong.”

Initially, Dipti casually refused to stay in relations with Suprita, but intending to be true friends. “They spoke like that for 6 months,” Dipti says, “After that, we took our friendship forward.”

In the first place, Suprita did not tell her family about their relations. But Dipti’s family already knew, and are supportive. “I don’t marry a boy, but if I get a good girl friend, we live together,” she says, remembering what she told her family.

Mother had taught her the right to live as she wishes. Mother used to say, “Identify yourself as you wish. Don’t do anything wrong.” Dipti’s parents live in the village, and she has got the opportunity to live independently as her parents are supportive, and understand her.

Her parents used to warn her that girl friends would cheat her. She also took time to talk with her parents. She introduced Suprita as her friend to her sisters when they went home on vacation from Syangja and Butwal.

Suprita also introduced Dipti as her friend to her family, but hid their relations in the beginning. “Even though mummy couldn’t say it openly, she already knew that we were in a relationship,” says Suprita.

This is how the marriage was registered

Ultimately, both families accepted. Even after marriage, the families did not behave badly. Both families are happy. “It is their will. They live together. If they wish to live together. We should not do bad. We have accepted them,” they say.

Suprita, 33, of Kohalpur Municipality-5, and Dipti, 33, of Badhaiyatal-2 in Banke district had been in a same-sex relationship for the past five years before being legally registered as a couple.

Badhaiyatal Rural Municipality-2 in Bardiya district registered the marriage acting on the verdict of the Supreme Court leading Nepal to become the first country to legalise lesbian marriage in South Asia, and second in Asia after Taiwan.

It may be noted that the country regarded as having relatively liberal approach for the sexual and gender minorities registered its first same-sex marriage on November 29, 2023, becoming the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in South Asia, and second in Asia behind Taiwan in Asia.

On January 18, 2024, the couple had applied for marriage registration at the ward office. Following this, Arjun Subedi, the chief administrative officer of the rural municipality, sent to the Department of National ID and Civil Registration requesting it to provide necessary opinion and instructions on whether the same-sex marriage can be registered or not.

The marriage registration followed the landmark verdict of the Supreme Court on June 27, 2023 directing the registration of marriages involving same-sex and non-heterosexual couples.

The marriage was registered based on their National Identity Card and the information provided by the technical branch of the Department, says local registrar and ward secretary Dipak Nepali. “The technical branch of the Department directed the temporary registration of the marriage.”

Registration of same-sex marriage between Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey opens the door In November 2023, Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey got their same-sex marriage registered from Dordi Rural Municipality in Lamjung district, leading Nepal to become the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in South Asia, and second in Asia behind Taiwan in Asia.

In 2007, Nepal recognised the third gender becoming the first country in the world to do so, and the first country in South Asia to legalise homosexuality.

However, in Nepal, legally, only a heterosexual marriage can register. There is no law in the Civil Code to register a heterosexual marriage. The Supreme Court on December 21, 2007 issued a directive order in the name of the government to enact a same-sex marriage law in a writ petition.

According to the order of the Supreme Court, the same-sex marriage study committee formed by the government submitted the report in 2071 BS. Although it was suggested that it would be appropriate to legalise same-sex marriage, the government did not make any provision for registering same-sex marriage in the amended Civil Code after the promulgation of the constitution.

On June 27, 2023, in a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court by Sunil Babu Pant, Asia’s first openly gay former parliamentarian of Nepal, judge Til Prasad Shrestha delivered an interim order to temporarily register same-sex marriage for immediate relief until the related law is made. Now in the case, the final verdict of the apex court is awaiting.

Struggle of Maya and Surendra to get their marriage registered

Maya, a transgender woman who is legally recognised as male, and Surendra, a cisgender man, tied their nuptial knot in 2017. They first attempted to legally register their marriage in June 2023 at the Kathmandu District Court, following an interim order by the Supreme Court instructing authorities to register same-sex marriages.

When the Kathmandu district court rejected their registration, saying it did not need to recognise a couple that was not one legal male and one legal female, they appealed to the Patan High Court in September.

But the high court judges rejected the appeal, saying that it was the responsibility of the federal government to change the law before the lower authorities could register such marriages.

Again Maya and Surendra once again reached the Supreme Court after the High Court upheld the verdict of the district court. In the case, Judge Til Prasad Shrestha gave another order that no amendment should be made to the previous order to register same-sex marriage in a temporary record.

Maya and Surendra submitted an application for marriage registration in Ward No. 2 of Dordi Rural Municipality of Lamjung along with the apex court’s interim order and the recommendation of unmarried people. The ward wrote to the rural municipality, and the municipality sought advice from the Department.

The Department issued a circular to the rural municipality within three or four days, and Maya and Surendra’s marriage was legally registered based on the order of the Supreme Court.

Suprita and Dipti’s marriage registration process

Dipti knew that Mitini Nepal has been established for the rights of lesbians. They requested Mitini Nepal for an information. But, Mitini Nepal refused to hear them, instead it unfriended them on Facebook.

Only then did they contact Maya and Surendra. Dipti sent a message on Facebook messenger, Maya and Surendra immediately replied. “They explained about their marriage-registration process. The officer also talked to the other sirs, it became very easy,” says Dipti, “If Sunil sir had not told the Department, our marriage would not have been registered.”

Suprita did not know that their marriage would be registered. “Our marriage was registered finally. We knew later that marriage of Maya and Surendra) was registered. Our happiness knew no bounds. Dipti’s sister was very much happy in particular,” shares Suprita.

Village representatives’ support

“If we had done something wrong, they would not have helped us. “There were a lot of people who helped a lot. After the news about our marriage registration broke out, calls started coming in asking for a party,” says Dipti.

However, in the case of their marriage registration, Deepak Nepali, secretary of the rural municipality, received pressure from all sides. Secretary Nepali did not eat for many days due to pressure. “I couldn’t sleep the whole night because of the pressure,” Dipti says, quoting secretary Nepali.

For security reasons, secretary Nepali stayed on a 15-day leave after registering their marriage. The ward office of the rural municipality helped a lot, says Dipti.

They are now happily married. “We are the one who live our lives, be it between girls or boys,” Dipti says, agreeing with Suprita, “Our families suggest we should live happily.”

They suggest that people from the communities should not hesitate, but open up. “It will be difficult if you live on the income of your family. If you can live on your own income, it will be easy for you and your family,” she says, “You should carry on your life yourself.”

Inclusive tourism

Pant, also the executive director of Mayako Pahichan Nepal, a non-profit organisation advocating for the rights of the sexual and gender minorities in Nepal, says Nepal stands out to be an inclusive nation by registering same-sex marriage, and it could be a medium to attract tourists.

He also expressed the hope that the First International Pink Tourism Conference slated to take place in Nepal on April 20-21 could open the door for inclusive tourism in the country. The event is a collaborative effort between Mayako Pahichan Nepal and Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). Many organisations have extended commitments of support, said the organisers.

People from various countries including India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, and Bhutan are expected to attain the event. For tourism promotion, a national consultation of the sexual and gender minorities has been already organised in collaboration with NTB.

Mayako Pahichan Nepal has already filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court for the creation of an inclusive election law, and for reservation in civil service. In the case, the Supreme Court has given priority to the writ, and issued a show cause order.

The organisation has urged all sexual and gender minorities at the national and international levels to join hands for the rights of the communities.

Now we will not keep quite anymore

Activists like Surendra and community reform activist Debendra Bahadur Khatri have been constantly cautioning through social media against mistreatment against the sexual and gender minorities.

They have also warned of retaliation since many elements have been actively engaged against the sexual and gender minorities.

According to data with the Social Welfare Council, around four dozen organisations related to the sexual and gender minorities have been established in Nepal.

However, some organisations have seemed opportunistic and have taken advantage in the name of the communities. They are working just to fulfil their personal interests, it has been said.

On the other hand, Pant is the one who is genuinely fighting for the rights of the communities. He has involved a lot, be it from taking initiatives in the registration of same-sex marriage.

However, some people are effortful in placing obstacles in the way of Pant’s campaign for the rights of the communities.

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