Hundreds attended Nepal’s first ever gay Pride procession yesterday in the country’s capital, Kathmandu.

Despite heavy rain, a crowd of young men and women in colourful costumes and masks marched through the city in a display of Pride.

The celebrations coincided with Gai Jatra, a historical festival held in memory of the recently deceased, in which participants also dress up and parade through the streets.

Back in 2001, Sunil Pant, Nepal’s only openly gay MP and head of the Blue Diamond Society, the country’s pioneering gay rights organisation, made the decision to use the Gai Jatra festival to encourage Nepalese LGBT people to walk in public without hiding their sexual identity.

At that parade, LGBT participants hid their faces behind masks for fear of being identified, but things were different yesterday.

Mr Pant said: “From this year, our march has become internationalised. We have the support of the Irish parliament, the American ambassador to Nepal, Scott DeLisi, has sent a message of solidarity and the march saw the participation of the British ambassador, John Tucknott.

“Thousands of gays die worldwide every year, some of natural causes, some due to AIDS/HIV and many due to violence. In Nepal, there were 10 known deaths last year. But no one remembers them. Our gay parade ends with a candle-light vigil in memory of those who died last year. This is about equality for all.”

Last week saw Nepal’s first foreign gay “wedding”, also in Kathmandu, between a British man and his Indian partner.

Although there are no laws legalising same sex marriages in Nepal, marriages conducted by priests are generally accepted by Nepalese society.