Nepal sexual minorities back panel's call for legal same-sex marriage

Tue Feb 17, 2015 8:20am EST
 
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Nepali transgender Bhakti Shah married almost a decade ago, his dream of being able to walk openly, hand in hand with his wife, through the narrow streets of Kathmandu seemed close to impossible to fulfill.

Married in a small Hindu temple with little fanfare and a handful of well-wishers, the couple were ostracized by their families and their community because of Shah's sexual orientation and have endured years of discrimination.

But a new report recommending that the Himalayan nation allow same-sex marriage has given hope to Shah, his wife and many other sexual minorities who have been forced into hiding.

"We are happy and excited," said 28-year-old Shah, who says he was born a female, but by the age of 13 realized that he was actually male.

"My family does not recognize my sexual orientation or accept my partner. We live in fear and terror. We hope the government feels our pain and fulfils our dreams of openly living together and walking as husband and wife."

Officials from both the ruling center-left coalition and other parties have refused to say whether they will back the recommendations, which were submitted by the government-appointed panel of experts last week.

But the changes, if built into the new constitution in the coming months, will not only allow same-sex couples to marry, but will also legalize gay sex - making Nepal the first nation in the conservative South Asia region to do so.

"They (same-sex couples) will be entitled to pension or any other benefits, inheritance, can register their marriage with government agencies, can receive parental property," human rights lawyer Hari Phuyal, a panel member, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   Continued...