It was like any traditional Nepali wedding with song and dance, ‘mehendi rasam’, a Newari ‘bhoj’ (feast) and Panchai Baja, (traditional musical band). But it was different from other such dos.
Nepal witnessed its first public lesbian wedding on Monday when an American couple tied the knot at Dakshinkali Temple, a popular Hindu shrine on the outskirts of Kathmandu, with Vedic rites performed by a young Hindu priest.
Amid chanting of hymns, Courtney Mitchell, a 41 year old psychologist from Colorado and Sarah Welton, a 48 year old lawyer, became a married couple as their friends, family members and many gays, lesbians and transgendered present showered blessings.
Later in the evening, they hosted a reception attended by many Nepali celebrities, politicians and social activists.
Helped by local lesbians, gays and transgendered, the couple who arrived in Nepal three days earlier shopped for saris, jewelry and the Nepali ‘topis’ they both wore at the wedding.
The ceremony was organized by the Blue Diamond Society and Pink Mountain Travels, Nepal’s largest organization fighting for gay and lesbian rights and the country’s first travel agency catering to this niche group.
Courtney had lived in Nepal for several years and had helped Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s first gay lawmaker, to set up BDS years ago. Although some US states have legalized same sex union, Colorado is yet to enact such a law.
“The couple decided to have their wedding here as they want to support Nepal’s gay, lesbian and transgendered community and also promote tourism in Nepal,” says Pant.
Last August, Pant had organized a similar wedding for a gay Indian couple who chose to get married in Nepal due to legal restrictions and threats from family members.
In December 2007, Nepal’s Supreme Court granted equal status to sexual minorities. The country is drafting a new constitution, which will grant equal rights to them including, legalizing same sex marriages.
Nepal aims to attract a million tourists this year. It also hopes to become Asia’s biggest hub for gay and lesbian tourism and improve the country’s economy by tapping into this multi billion dollar market.