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LGBTs Marriage & Parenting Rights
Marriage is ultimately about two people being in love and fully committed to each other, regardless of their gender. In a conversation with Anuj Peter Rai, Program Officer, Blue Diamond Society, we learn that despite homosexuality being legal, the struggle for a marriage certificate is real.
Marriage is both ubiquitous and central. Across our country, individuals from every region, social class, race and ethnicity and religion have the choice to get married. To be told “you cannot get married” is thus to be excluded from one of the defining rituals of the human life cycle.
Falling in this bracket is the LGBT community in Nepal who are seeking every right to live a normal life, unlike others. On November 17, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of laws to guarantee full rights to LGBT people and all gender minorities must be defined as “natural persons” under the law. It also included that same-sex couples can stay together but it didn’t clarify if they can further get married.
“The LGBT community in our country is growing and has crossed seven lakhs. And currently, we are fighting for equality. One of the projects we are looking forward to this year is marriage equality. In our country, marriage is an important part of life. It is the founding pillar to live normally and get accepted in the society,” says Anuj Peter Rai, Program Officer, Blue Diamond Society (BDS).
Founded in 2001, BDS is an LGBT rights organisation in Nepal. Talking about legalising same-sex marriage, he explains, “It will open people’s minds to dealing with issues that we don’t talk about. The legal barrier has to be removed. So that people can talk about real issues which deal with relationships, we can finally openly talk about our feeling with our parents, our spouses and relatives. There are many who are locked in unhappy marriages and it ruins two lives. These are spaces where lots of conversations happen and make people ask questions we don’t ask ourselves.”
Rai, who is also the second runner up of the Mr. Gay Handsome 2018, recently had a breakup and feels if he was married to his boyfriend, things would have been different. “When you are married people understand your relationship and the society makes effort to keep a couple together. Even a small tiff is resolved by family members. Since divorce involves family, children and other factors, as far as possible people try not to fall apart,” he opines.
There’s another example of a gay couple who shifted abroad because the foreign laws accepted them and their own motherland didn’t. “Harish and Pukar (names changed) were dating for quite a few years and had revealed their identity to their parents. Soon after their revelation, they were harassed by their family members to marry a girl and lead a normal life. Finally, in an urge to be accepted in society and at the workplace, the couple fled abroad. Our law is such that same-sex couples can stay together but cannot marry. This has provoked many to settle abroad and finally live the way they want to. It’s a basic right to be in love with someone. The instances of people leaving the country to get equal rights are heartbreaking and hopefully a change in law will help people know that they can stay here and have a good life too,” he shares.
After the law said its okay to be a gay or a lesbian, a lot of people talked openly about their identity. And when same-sex marriage will be legalised many family members will be on board with them. “A human requires a companion for life. And more than us, our parents are worried about it. When they don’t see our future bright, they get stressed and we, on the other hand, get mentally harassed to marry and be accepted by society,” he quips.
“Moreover, the next step is to fight for equal rights, medical, housing, etc… we also have to be on par with the rest of the country. We are not a minority group anymore and we have to take charge. If a particular political party supports us, things will mend in no time,” he adds. Despite the slow rate of change, he is optimistic. He lists examples of people who quietly live together, quotes the growing numbers who join the LGBT meet-ups and waxes lyrical about the burgeoning activity online. Things are getting better he says, and that’s something we can be proud of.
Looking at the broader side, he clarifies, “LGBT members are still depicted as stereotypically negative and mostly sex workers. People should understand that every sex worker has a story, some do so to support their family financially while others do so to fulfill their desires. Recognising the sexual rights of the community is a big step but we also need protection from workplace discrimination and inequality in education. It is unwritten, but discrimination based on sexuality is a reality. People should understand that it is okay to love; we don’t have to love surreptitiously any more. The next step is civil rights: recognition for our relationships, marriage.”
Revealing another story of a gay couple, he underlines further discrimination that the LGBT members go through. “Pranav and Lakshay (names changed) are together for some years now. They have been accepted by society and are much loved by their in-law families. And when they wanted to be parents to a child, the government deprived them of that happiness. The law says the LGBT couples are not eligible to adopt a child,” he explains. He further questions, “Don’t you think, we people can love and nurture a child in the best possible way? I believe we can be more responsible than a 5-10 member team taking care of more than 50 children in an orphanage.” No provision in existing laws allows couples or a single LGBT persons to adopt. Most community members feel the right to adopt is imperative. Like everyone else, we too aspire for a family, he says. “We want the right to legally adopt a child,” he urges.
Through the project ‘Marriage Equality’, he plans to spread the word by urging people to talk openly about it on various platforms. “Through the project, I expect many homosexuals who couldn’t admit their sexuality till now to come out of the closet. It took a long time to come this far. Perceptions of people towards us are not going to change in a day. It will take time, but will definitely happen in the future,” he claims. Though it may not remove the societal stigma right away, however, such strong voices have instilled hope and positivity in the minds of people falling under the rainbow spectrum.