This woman has become the first openly transgender person in Nepal to get married
Nepal has just approved its first known wedding involving a transgender person.
The south-east Asian country has issued a marriage certificate to Monika Shahi Nath, 40, which formally recognises her union with 22-year-old Ramesh Nath Yogi.
The spouses wed in May, with Monika finding unexpected acceptance with her new in-laws.
Growing up in a remote village in western Nepal, this is more than she ever thought possible.
“I never dreamed that one day I would be someone’s wife, that I would be loved as a daughter-in-law,” she told AFP.
“At school, I wanted to sit with the girls and was fascinated with women’s clothing.”
In her early twenties, she often took her sister’s clothes and ran away for days at a time to the nearest city, where she could be herself.
“Away from my home, I would secretly become a woman,” she remembered.
“It would make me very happy, but I was afraid to tell my family, I felt I would shame them,” she said.
Monika became an activist for trans rights, but still did not discuss her gender identity with her family.
When she brought her new husband home, wearing a short red dress and wedding ring, it was one of the first times she had shown them her true identity.
“But my marriage has made it easier. They truly see me as a woman now,” she said.
Her husband’s family, who live a six-hour drive away, also voiced resistance to the marriage at first, but Monika and Ramesh are now accepted by their community.
One of their neighbours, Laxmi Nath Bista, said: “Her relationship with the family and with the people in the community is very good. We think it is okay.
“The idea of third gender is very new to people around here, many people don’t understand what it means.
“But her behaviour is good with everyone, so they are accepting of her.”
Despite the advances made in her favour, Monika called on authorities to make more progress, and soon.
“I am blessed to be someone’s wife, but the government needs to make the legal changes so people can easily marry the person they love,” she said.
Same-sex marriage is still illegal in every Asian country but Taiwan.
However, relatively speaking, Nepal is one of the most progressive countries in the region.
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Since 2007, the country has legalised homosexuality and changing your gender, and banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Earlier this year, social worker and LGBT activist Aanik Rana made history when she became the first trans woman in Nepal to run for political office.
The country also issued its first third-gender passport in 2015, and is still one of only a handful of nations to have done so.
Nath was the first person to receive one of these passports, which allowed the user to indicate ‘O’ for ‘other’.