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In a groundbreaking move, Nepal’s Supreme Court Judge Til Prasad Shrestha has issued a historic order directing the government to officially recognise and immediately register same-sex marriages and other non-traditional heterosexual relationships.

While the ruling is considered interim, it paves the way for the legislation to establish a new legal framework.

This momentous decision marks Nepal as the first South Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage, setting a significant precedent for the region. The Supreme Court ruling emphasises that same-sex unions should be accorded the same rights as heterosexual couples, and a separate register is to be established for same-sex partners until a permanent legal framework is in place.

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It is estimated that approximately 200 same-sex couples could officially register their marriages within the coming months, representing a long-awaited victory for the LGBTQ+ community in Nepal.

This is not the first instance of such a ruling in Nepal. Similar court rulings date back to 2007, which called for the formation of a committee to prepare for new legislation and recognition of same-sex marriages. However, successive administrations failed to bring about any concrete legislative changes.

However, in June, LGBTQ+ activists petitioned to finally enforce these long-standing rulings, culminating in the historic verdict. With this decisive move, Nepal becomes the first country in South Asia to embrace marriage equality, setting a powerful example for neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka, where progress has been slow or non-existent.

The significance of this ruling extends beyond South Asia, as Nepal now becomes the second country in all of Asia to legally recognise marriage equality, following in Taiwan’s footsteps. This momentous step is a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ+ community across the continent, particularly in countries where conservative attitudes have hindered progress in marriage equality legislation.

For now, Nepal stands at the forefront of advancing LGBTQ+ rights in the region, marking a remarkable milestone in the ongoing struggle for equal rights and acceptance. The court’s ruling not only grants official recognition to same-sex marriages but also sends a powerful message of inclusivity, respect, and dignity to all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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