Nepal and the recognition of same-sex couples

“Given these premises, it seems that same-sex marriage should be considered a matter that is provided for in the Constitution and in accordance with the Constitution of Nepal”.

This concludes one of the historic rulings issued by Nepal’s Supreme Court, in which it expressed its willingness to recognise same-sex marriage.

Recognition that comes posthumously to an order given to government authorities to recognise a gay foreign spouse of a Nepalese citizen, and thus instructing them to move towards legalising same-sex marriage.

The case began with the marriage between a Nepalese citizen and his German husband after the latter was denied a non-tourist visa by Nepal’s Immigration Department. The couple had married in Germany in 2018 with the intention of later moving to Nepal, but their application was denied because the application form did not include the words ‘husband’ and ‘husband’.

The couple thus decided to take their case to the Supreme Court, citing two previous rulings in their conclusions: the first concerning a spouse of a lesbian couple who was denied a non-tourist visa in 2017. The second dating back to 2007 when, in response to a petition filed by LGBTQIA+ activists, the Supreme Court decided to set up an ad hoc committee, established with the function of initiating a study of the legislation on the recognition of same-sex marriage around the world, which concluded with a ruling proclaiming the full lawfulness of an adult to have conjugal relations with another adult, upon free consent and his or her will.

On the basis of these judgments, therefore, the Nepalese Supreme Court ruled in favour of the two protagonists in the case, emphasising how, and to what extent the non-recognition of same-sex marriage in fact violates the Constitution of Nepal, as well as the country’s international human rights obligations.

In addition, the Nepalese court ordered the Department of Immigration to provide a non-tourist visa to the German citizen, husband of the Nepalese citizen.

Kyle Knight, senior researcher for LGBTQIA+ rights at Human Rights Watch, commented on the ruling, highlighting how this case has once again shone a spotlight on the Supreme Court and the government’s delayed implementation of court orders for the recognition of same-sex relationships. The same researcher went on to honour Nepal’s merit in being a long-time pioneer in the world on LGBTQIA+ rights, but emphasised how the Nepalese government hasn’t always reacted in the same manner. 

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