Nepal has for the first known time approved a wedding involving a transgender person by issuing a marriage certificate to Monika Shahi Nath and Ramesh Nath Yogi.
Monika Shahi Nath, born as a boy in rural Nepal, says she always knew she was different, but was afraid to reveal her true gender identity to her family. Coming home from her wedding with her husband, wearing a red dress and wedding ring, it was one of the first times she had been herself around her family. Monika now says that her family has accepted her identity, as have her new in-laws.
In 2015, Monika also became the first Nepali to have an ‘O’ for ‘other’ in her passport as her gender designation. While she has been able to take these steps towards living as the gender she identifies as, Monika states that the majority of transgender persons in Nepal are still living in the shadows of society, unaccepted by their communities and families. While Nepal is one of the more progressive countries in South Asia regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and has enshrined some of the rights of such minorities, as evidenced by the issuing of a third gender option on passports, it has yet to address same sex or transgender marriage in its laws. This puts third gender marriages in an uncertain legal position. As Deepak Kafle, a Home Ministry spokesperson in Nepal pointed out: ‘[the] validity of the same-sex or third-sex marriage can be questioned even after marriage registration if it is against the existing laws’. Legal analysts have also pointed out that Monika and Ramesh’s marriage may be invalidated for reasons unrelated to Monika’s gender identity as Ramesh is already married.
For now, however, Monika and Ramesh are happy to have found acceptance within their families and communities. Monika will continue to be an activist, and call for further change in the status of LGBT individuals in Nepal.