Nepal has a new constitution, the first ratified in the history of the country since it dissolved the monarchy and became a republic in 2008. LGBT rights, which were under hot debate over the last several years, are written directly into the constitution. Nepal is the only country in Asia to explicitly outline the rights of the LGBT community, and one of only a few globally to do so.
The key points in the constitution outlining LGBT rights include articles twelve, eighteen, and forty-two of the new document. Article twelve allows citizens to choose their preferred gender on documents. Article eighteen goes one step further, barring discrimination against gender and sexual minorities. Finally, article forty-two refers to gender and sexual minorities as having the right to participate in elections and other state mechanisms. However, what is not defined in the constitution is marriage equality. While Nepal is taking steps to move forward in this arena, there is no solid timetable on this as of yet.
Sunil Babu Pant, founder of the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s LGBT advocacy organization, and Asia’s first openly gay federal member of Parliament, has said, “This new Constitution makes clear that we can be proud of our LGBT identities, and that we can be proud citizens of Nepal … We will be working together with Nepali and international allies to build our nation, a ‘new, inclusive and prosperous Nepal’.”
Nepal is forging ahead on the road to equality, leaving the rest of Asia behind on their human rights records. Over the last several months, Nepal has had this ongoing conversation, and while the country is still working toward full equality for the LGBT community, these articles written into the constitution are a testament to the country’s resolve in working for the rights of minorities. This is an exciting time for Nepal, and an exciting time to watch how the rest of the region moves forward in the future.
Mehek Naresh is an Indian American lesbian, living and working in Florida after recently graduating with a Bachelors in Political Science. Her hobbies seeking out small talk with cashiers, reading, and spending more time staring at tumblr than she’d care to admit.