The Supreme Court of Nepal issued an interim order to the Nepali government on Friday to recognize same-sex marriage by allowing same-sex couples and other non-heterosexual couples to register for marriage in the country. The order issued by Justice Til Prasad Shrestha calls for necessary amendments to the provisions related to marriage and marriage registration within the current National Civil (Code) Act, 2017 (2074), where marriage is deemed as “a man and a woman accept[ing] each other as the husband and wife” under the Family Law.
The Supreme Court order is a direct result of a petition filed by Nepali national Adhip Pokharel and German national Tobias Volz, who married in Germany in 2018. Volz applied for a non-tourist visa to stay in Nepal as the spouse of Adhip Pokharel in 2022. The application was denied by Nepali authorities on the grounds that there is no provision in Nepal’s law to register same-sex marriages. The couple subsequently brought the case to the Supreme Court, which finally issued an order granting a non-tourist visa for the German citizen.
This decision continues the liberal and progressive trend in Nepal. In 2008, Nepal became the first nation in South Asia to recognize the rights of LGBTI+ people by categorizing them under the “third gender” in the case Sunil Banu Pant v. Nepal Government, and in 2012 the Nepali Supreme Court allowed a lesbian couple to cohabitate. The rights of sexual and gender minorities have been enshrined in the Constitution of Nepal since 2015.
Nepal is now one of the only two jurisdictions in largely conservative Asia to allow same-sex marriage. Previously in 2019, Taiwan became the first in Asia to legalize gay marriage.