On the scale of this small Himalayan nation, and especially in the light of the moral values ​​of the entire Indian subcontinent, the event which has just taken place in a remote region of central Nepal, located at the foot of high peaks of Annapurna, will be a milestone: Wednesday, November 29, a young 27-year-old Nepalese man named Surendra Pandey was officially united with Maya Gurung, a 41-year-old transgender woman.

Maya having not changed her identity papers designating her as belonging to the male gender, this is therefore the first same-sex marriage ever recorded in South Asia. In June, a historic decision opened the way for gay marriage in Nepal: the Supreme Court ruled on the legality of civil unions between “people of the same sex and not heterosexuals”. A revolution in a largely conservative Indian subcontinent, where the importance given to the roles of traditional families in society remains cardinal.

In the rest of Asia, only Taiwan allows same-sex marriage. But on December 12, Thai MPs will debate an amendment that should also, if approved, allow same-sex marriage.

“It’s a big day for us. Fighting for our rights has not been easy,” Maya Gurung reacted after municipal authorities in a village in Lamjung district registered the marriage certificate. The two young people, who had been a couple for around ten years, had to overcome one last obstacle before their desires could be fulfilled. Religiously married in a Hindu temple in Kathmandu, they suffered, in July, the refusal of a court of justice in the capital of Nepal: they were told that such a marriage was impossible because the appropriate laws, following the decision of the Supreme Court, had not yet been voted on…

Societal audacity

They therefore had to return to the district where Maya comes from, in the sub-Himalayan hills of central Nepal where her ethnic group, the Gurung, lives. There, the local administration official decided to ignore the arguments presented in Kathmandu, declaring that gay marriage was legal, “in accordance with the spirit of the decision” made by Nepal’s highest court. The same Court had also recognized, in 2017, the rights of transgender people to declare themselves male, female or belonging to a “third gender”.

Unlike its big Indian neighbor, Nepal is demonstrating societal audacity uncommon in the region: on October 17, the Supreme Court of the Indian Republic rejected the petitions of around twenty gay couples and trans people requesting to legalize same-sex marriage, leaving Parliament free to legislate on the issue. And as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, champion of Hindu nationalism, defends “values ​​accepted by society”, there is little chance that Indian MPs will come out in favor of legalizing such unions.

Without a doubt, such “values” also remain defended in Nepal which was, until the transition to a system of republican parliamentary democracy in 2008, one of the last absolute monarchies in the Himalayas. Even if, at the margins, mentalities have been evolving for some time, as was shown in 2012 by the broadcast of a Nepalese film, Soongava, the Dance of the Orchids, by Subarna Thapa, which recounted the thwarted love affairs of two young women refusing arranged marriage with men. “The 900,000 members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination,” concedes Rukshana Kapali, a gay activist, “but compared to ten years ago, more and more queer people are coming out. »