Nepal (Yes, Nepal) Takes Major Steps Toward Gay Rights

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 19, 2008

Mere weeks after the most populous state in America saw voters approve a ballot initiative to rescind family parity for gays and lesbians, a tiny nation halfway across the world has cleared the way for its gay and lesbian citizens to enjoy fully equal family rights down the road.

Nepal, a profoundly conservative country dominated by Hindus, saw marriage equality upheld by its Supreme Court on Nov. 17, according to a Nov. 19 article posted at Ground Report.

Marriage equality is a direct result of a ruling by the court that issues equal protections under all aspects of the law to GLBT citizens of the nation, which is headed up by a Maoist government.

Marriage equality or a near-equivalent is a matter of law in nations as diverse as Canada, England, France, South Africa, South Korea, and Spain, the article noted.

In the United States, only two states currently recognize marriage equality, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The state of California briefly extended family equality, but that right was stripped from gay and lesbian families in that state with the passage of anti-gay amendment Proposition 8 earlier this month.

In 28 other states, anti-gay constitutional amendments have made access to marriage equality a legal impossibility for gay and lesbian families.

The leader of Nepal's GLBT equality advocate group, the Blue Diamond Society, was quoted in a Nov. 19 story at the Hindustan Times.

Said Sunil Panta, "The court has instructed the government against making any discrimination on the basis of sex.

"This is a landmark decision for the sexual minorities and we welcome it."

Said Panta, "The court ordered the government to form a seven member committee to formulate laws that recognize same-sex marriages in European countries, ending all types of discriminations [sic] against gays and lesbians."

Last year, the court officially acknowledged the existence of gays and lesbians and extended citizenship to them; in Nepal, a "third sex" is recognized for individuals who are attracted to members of their own gender, or who identify with the gender opposite to that of their bodies.

Pointed out Panta, "The Supreme Court's order also includes the right to own property and right to employment."

Ground Report further quoted Panta as looking to the future of global GLBT equality, saying, "I don't think we'll see much momentum on gay issues in the Middle East and Africa beyond what has already happened in Israel and South Africa...

"I think the gay rights movement of the 21st century will be fought in these two areas of the world. Aside from this great ruling in Nepal, we've seen some encouraging signs Asians are finally willing to talk about sexuality."

The Ground Report noted that already the decision is affecting how the GLBT members of other societies in the region view themselves and their prospects, most significantly, India.

The Indian Supreme Court recently turned away a petition to decriminalize same-gender sexual contact between consenting adults.

Said Panta, "Reading this decision my eyes were filled with tears and I felt we are the most proud LGBTI citizens of Nepal in the world."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.