In a groundbreaking move, the new Nepal Constitution has explicitly included rights for LGBT individuals, while stopping short of legalising same-sex marriage.
According to a report by HRC Global and Pink Pages, Nepal has enshrined equal rights and freedom from discrimination in Articles 12, 18 and 42 of the new constitution.
Incredibly, while many western countries have legalised same sex marriage, none have provided for explicit and full anti-discrimination legislation in their constitutions. Thus, Nepal joins South Africa and Ecuador as the third country to provide full protections for LGBT people in its national constitution..
Naturally, it is the first Asian country to provide such protections.
This is Nepal’s first constitution as a federal republic following the dissolution of the 239-year-old monarchy by a parliamentary vote in 2008.
According to HRC Global, Article 12 states that citizens will be allowed to choose their preferred gender identity on their citizenship document. The choices available are male, female or other.
Article 18 states that gender and sexual minorities will not be discriminated against by the state and by the judiciary in the application of laws. It further adds that the government may make special provisions through laws to protect, empower and advance the rights of gender and sexual minorities and other marginalized and minority groups.
Article 42 lists gender and sexual minorities among the groups that have a right to participate in state mechanisms and public services to promote inclusion.
The new constitution explicitly states that “sexual and gender minorities” cannot be discriminated against by the state or the judiciary. While mention of same-sex marriage has been avoided, all issues related to marriage will henceforth be handled by the civil code. This provides groundwork for the eventual legalisation of same-sex marriage in Nepal.
“This is a momentous step forward for LGBT equality in Nepal. The nation’s leadership has affirmed that its LGBT citizens deserve the constitutional right to live their lives free from discrimination and fear,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “We congratulate LGBT Nepalis and their allies for this historic victory, and hope to see other nations across Asia and the globe take similar steps to ensure full legal equality for their LGBT citizens,” said HRC Global director Ty Cobb.
LGBT groups have long agitated for legalisation of same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination legislation in the new Nepal Constitution. While their demand for gay marriage remains unmet, Nepal has certainly created history, not just in Asia but throughout the world.
Thus, as the news media remains focused on the protests calling for declaring Nepal a Hindu state, the country’s constitution has just provided a huge shot in the arm for those fighting for LGBT rights in Asia. It’s time India took serious note.