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The end of this year marks the tenth anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that saw Nepal’s LGBT rights agenda shift drastically.

Nepal is situated between China and India, with a population of just under 29 million people. The predominately Hindu country is home to Mount Everest, but it’s also climbed the rankings in relation to LGBT+ acceptance, becoming one of the most progressive places for LGBT rights in the world.

The Human Rights Watch describe the South Asian country as a “beacon for LGBT rights in Asia and globally.”

The 2007 ruling saw the legal recognition of a third gender category, the introduction of laws that protected LGBT people against discrimination, and the legalisation of same-sex sexual activity.

The introduction of a new Nepalese Constitution in 2015 saw significant changes to constitutional law regarding the rights of LGBT people. Articles within the constitution state that people in Nepal may change the gender on their identity card to reflect their gender identity. What’s more, the constitution refers to the State’s obligation not to discriminate against various groups, including “gender and sexual minorities.”

The constitution has also removed gender-specific terminology and replaced them with gender-neutral terms. Furthermore, people living in Nepal are able to receive legal recognition as identifying as third gender, but the rates of violence towards this group within society remain high.

The country’s family law is also trailing behind, failing to recognise same-sex relationships, resulting in same-sex couples being unable to marry or adopt.

LGBT people still face discrimination in their daily lives as societal attitudes catch up to their country’s constitution.

In 2016, Out News Global reported on the hundreds of people that rallied for LGBT equality in Nepal. Despite being guaranteed by the constitution, LGBT people taking part in the rally did not feel that their rights were truly equal.

Nepalese human rights group, Blue Diamond Society, was founded in 2001 and played an active role in bringing about changes in constitutional law. They now provide LGBT people living in Nepal with support and advice, in addition to health services and HIV testing centres.

LGBT people are also allowed to serve openly in the Nepalese military; this legislation is also celebrating its tenth anniversary.

Nepal’s civil service allows for people to select a third gender option on job applications, further demonstrating the country’s equality philosophy. A government report stated that 600 transgender people applied to work in the country’s civil service last year. [as reported by Human Rights Watch]

In addition, Nepal’s education system has also come under the spotlight for how it is becoming more inclusive. The United Nation’s Development Programme made recommendations for Nepal’s government in a 2014 country report, which included the introduction of inclusive sex and relationship education and additional teacher training concerning LGBT topics.

Although Nepal has implemented several constitutional changes since the Supreme Court decision in 2007, it still does not legally recognise same-sex couples or allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry. LGBT people in Nepal will await their government’s decision regarding the breaking down of these final barriers to equality.

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Hadley Stewart

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