Nepal courts refuse to register LGBTQ+ marriages despite Supreme Court ruling

Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey

Lower courts in Nepal have refused to register an LGBTQ+ couple’s marriage, despite the Supreme Court’s recent decision

In July, Supreme Court Justice Til Pradad Shrestha ruled that same-sex marriages could legally be registered, despite the country’s civil code that describes marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The ruling was made as an interim order until an official legislative change is made by the Nepalese parliament that will fully recognise marriage equality.

The landmark Supreme Court decision was celebrated by same-sex couples across the country.

Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey
Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey were married in 2017 but haven’t been able to legally register. (Getty)

However, at least one couple has been unable to make progress, and still cannot register their marriage, in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling, according to Human Rights Watch.

Surendra Pandey, a cisgender man, and Maya Gurung, a transgender woman, were married back in 2017, but have had their registration rejected twice – once by a District Court and once by a High Court.

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Since Gurung is legally recognised in Nepal as a male, their marriage falls under the category of same-sex marriage.

The couple first went to the Kathmandu District Court to register their marriage, but when they were told that the court was under no obligation to recognise their marriage, they appealed to the Patan High Court.

At High Court, Pandey and Gurung were once again turned down, and told that their marriage could not be registered until Nepal’s federal government changed marriage laws.

Now the couple are considering appealing once again to the Supreme Court.

After the Supreme Court’s interim ruling this summer, Nepal’s cabinet and parliament were urged to move quickly to amend the law, but no official progress has been made as of yet.

Still, by refusing to recognise Gurung and Pandey’s marriage and abide by the Supreme Court ruling, Nepalese courts are reversing the country’s reputation for legal protections over LGBTQ+ rights.

For years, the country has been hailed as one of the most progressive Asian countries for LGBTQ+ people, despite a lag in amending outdated laws.

Nepal’s first openly gay MP Sunil Babu Pant has described the government’s “lingering” on progressing LGBTQ+ protections and rights as “unjust to the entire sexual and gender minority community.”

When Pandey and Gurung’s marriage is finally recognised, they dream of opening a joint bank account, sharing ownership of the land they bought together, and, hopefully, adopting a child.

The couple first met in 2015, and Pandey insists it was love at first sight.

His love for Gurung encouraged him to finally come out to his sister, who didn’t accept him at first, but the couple eventually won the approval of both their families.

The couple were surrounded by loved ones at their wedding ceremony in 2017 in a Hindu Temple in Kathmandu.

Since then, they have been living together with their pet dog, Suru, they tell the BBC.

“We clean our flat together, we cook together, I like Maya’s chicken recipe very much,” said Pandey.

They even squabble from time to time, but find themselves making up rather quickly.

Pandey explained: “We can’t afford to fight. We need to get along as we have a long life ahead.”