Rights activists say marriage of Maya Gurung, a transgender woman, and Surendra Pandey is ‘historic day’
An LGBTQ+ couple in Nepal have said they want to “scream to the world that we are husband and wife at last” after becoming the first in south Asia to have their marriage legally recognised.
Maya Gurung, 38, a transgender woman, and Surendra Pandey, 27, were given a legal certificate in Nepal’s Lamjung district on Wednesday.
Gurung said: “I cannot even say how happy I am right now. We were fighting for a long time. With the support of everyone in the struggle of more than two decades, yesterday was a very auspicious day for us. Society will now accept us and it has opened the door to marriage for many like us.”
Pandey was equally elated. “We won! We won the big battle. I can now say we are husband and wife loudly. I think society will also change because of this.”
Gurung and Pandey met eight years ago at a restaurant and hit it off instantly. They went for a walk together by the Narayani River and began to talk about their lives and the shared loss of their parents.
Gurung said: “After getting along, we stayed together and shared our happiness and sorrows. Then we started living together. After two years we thought of getting married.”
Six years ago they held a Hindu religious marriage ceremony but have since faced multiple legal and social difficulties as their union was not recognised under the law. They struggled to find somewhere to live together where they did not face insults and discrimination, and could not open a bank account or buy land together.
This is a historic day! There will be many more couples coming forward now.Sunil Babu Pant, the founder of the Blue Diamond Society
However, they began to be optimistic after the issue was raised with the supreme court in June, which issued an interim order allowing all same-sex and transgender couples to register their marriages. The court directed the government to establish a separate temporary register for LGBTQ+ couples until laws were formulated.
The first district court they had applied to turned them down, but after Gurung and Pandey approached the authorities and government officials, their case was finally accepted, making their marriage the first to be registered under the new order.
Gurung said she hoped their marriage paved the way for others. They now also hope to adopt children. Gurung said: “It’s good for future generations too. We faced many obstacles, but now the future generations will be treated better. I am happy for them too.”
Nepal has previously led the way when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights regionally. It was the first south Asian country to pass laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and recognised transgender persons as a “third gender” in 2013, six years before its neighbour India, which only decriminalised homosexuality in 2015. India’s supreme court also recently ruled against allowing same-sex marriage.
Nonetheless, same-sex couples in Nepal still face issues of social acceptance, discrimination and violence.
Sunil Babu Pant, the founder of the Blue Diamond Society, the first LGBTQ+ rights organisation in Nepal, who took the issue of same-sex marriage to the supreme court in June and won the ruling, described the wedding as a “historic day”.
“I think there will be many more couples coming forward now,” he said.