Clarion calls for gender-inclusive civil code

- Weena Pun, Kathmandu

Nov 10, 2014-

Seeking legal recognition to the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexual) community and their demands for the right to marry, lawmakers have registered proposals to amend clauses on marriage in the civil code bill, The draft of the bill, tabled in Parliament on November 2, defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman as husband and wife. Based on that definition, any other clause that deals with individuals in a conjugal relationship omits to mention gender minority. 

Around a dozen lawmakers registered their reservations on Thursday against the discriminatory clauses, hoping to replace the terms “man” and “woman” with “individual(s)” and “husband” and “wife” with “two people in a marital state”. “This is about redacting any gender-based discriminatory clauses. We want the law to treat all men, women and people from the LGBTI community equally,” said Gopal Dahit, a parliamentarian from Tharuhat Tarai Party Nepal who proposed to amend the marriage clauses, among others, in the bill.

Despite tremendous pressure from advocates for gender equality, the much-awaited civil code draft disregarded the 2008 Supreme Court verdict, which ruled that the government should ensure rights of the sexual minorities, including their right to marry whomever they choose.

Dahit blames Hinduism for this gender-based discrimination. “The drafters of the civil code are unable to untether themselves from the traditional Hindu mentality,” he said.

The repercussions of the religion and traditions can also be seen in clauses on a woman’s last name and residence post-marriage. The clauses say that, unless otherwise specified, a married woman will be assumed to have adopted the last name and residence of the husband. Lawmakers, however, are hopeful that the bill will incorporate the proposed amendments before it is passed. “The establishment is heavily Hinduism-oriented, but there are progressive voices within different parties, including the ruling ones. So we believe the clauses will be gender-friendly before they are codified,” said Dahit.

Kedar Maharjan, a LGBTI rights activist, said that the amendments proposed were welcome news, but the community needed to lobby hard for changes. “High-level politicians are currently busy with the constitution writing, but we should not stop advocating for changes in the civil code draft,” said Maharjan. The bill and the amendment proposals are yet to be discussed in Parliament.

Published: 11-11-2014 13:13

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