National Human Rights Commission recommends that Nepal legalise same-sex marriageThe commission, in a report released Wednesday, said that while Nepal has made progress in ensuring LGBTIQ rights, it has yet to ensure full legal rights to queer individuals.
The National Human Rights Commission has said that it is unfortunate that same-sex marriage has not been legalised in the country even though it has been five years since an expert committee recommended legalisation.
The constitutional human rights watchdog, in a report made public on Wednesday, recommended that the government start opening legal channels for same-sex marriage, which has so far been legalised in 29 countries other countries.
As mandated by a landmark 2007 Supreme Court verdict, an expert team formed to study the possibility of legalising same-sex marriage in Nepal had recommended, in 2015, that the government lift legal restrictions preventing marriage between two individuals of the same sex.
“While it is positive that the government has started providing citizenship and passports under the ‘O’, or ‘other’, gender category, it is unfortunate that no steps have been taken to implement the report of the expert team formed as per the Supreme Court verdict,” reads the study report on sexual minorities released on Wednesday.
The December 2007 Supreme Court verdict had not just acknowledged the rights of sexual minorities, but also directed the government to make necessary arrangements—including new laws or amendments to existing ones—to ensure that people of different gender identities and sexual orientations could enjoy their rights without discrimination.
While Nepal is often hailed as a progressive beacon of LGBTIQ individuals in the region, its comparatively progressive laws have yet to trickle down into mainstream society. Queer individuals, particularly transgenders, continue to face harassment, discrimination and violence. A planned amendment to the Citizenship Act is also considering requiring proof of gender reassignment before allowing transgender individuals to claim citizenship under their new identity.
According to the human rights commission, only 170 individuals have so far received citizenship under the ‘O’ category. Similarly, 1,500 identified themselves under the ‘other’ category in the 2011 national census. These figures don’t represent the actual population of the LGBTIQ community, according to the commission. It, therefore, has recommended all three tiers of governments to ensure that no transgender people are excluded in the national census being conducted next year.
The Central Bureau of Statistics has already started preparations for the census, which is conducted every 10 years. The commission has concluded that the transgender community continues to face significant discrimination in society and the three levels of government haven’t yet taken adequate measure to ensure their rights.
The constitutional watchdog recommended that the federal government promulgate a special Act by incorporating provisions for “positive discrimination” to the transgender community and provide scholarships and hostel facilities up to higher education. It has also recommended the creation of a fund to financially support those who are willing to undergo gender reassignment surgery.