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This woman has become the first openly transgender person in Nepal to get married

Josh Jackman October 9, 2017
Nepali transgender woman Monika Shahi Nath (L) talks with her husband Ramesh Nath (R) during a press conference to announce the registration of their marriage, in Kathmandu on August 5, 2017. A Nepali transgender woman and a man registered their marriage, a first in the country, the couple said on August 5, despite an absence of laws legalising same-sex or transgender unions. Monika Shahi Nath, 40, who legally identifies as a third gender, married Ramesh Nath Yogi, 22, in May and was able to register it in their home district Dadeldhura in western Nepal last month. / AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

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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.

This photo taken on August 8, 2017 shows Nepali transgender person Monika Shahi Nath taking part in a gay pride parade in Kathmandu. Monika Shahi Nath, 40, became Nepal's first transgender person to be issued with a marriage certificate by district officials when she married 22-year-old Ramesh Nath Yogi in May, even though Nepal has no formal laws for such unions. The couple have found a rare acceptance in Nepal, where many transgender people still struggle to be open about their identity despite progressive laws that include a third gender option on identity cards and passports. / AFP PHOTO / Prakash MATHEMA / TO GO WITH Nepal-transgender-marriage-rights (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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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.”

This photo taken on August 21, 2017 shows Nepali transgender person Monika Shahi Nath Yogi and her husband Ramesh Nath Yogi talking in a bedroom in Lamki in Nepal's Kailali district. Monika Shahi Nath, 40, became Nepal's first transgender person to be issued with a marriage certificate by district officials when she married 22-year-old Ramesh Nath Yogi in May, even though Nepal has no formal laws for such unions. The couple have found a rare acceptance in Nepal, where many transgender people still struggle to be open about their identity despite progressive laws that include a third gender option on identity cards and passports. / AFP PHOTO / Prakash MATHEMA / TO GO WITH Nepal-transgender-marriage-rights        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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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.

Nepali transgender woman Monika Shahi Nath (L) and her husband Ramesh Nath (R) pose fpor pictures with their marriage certificate after announcing the registration of their marriage at a press conference in Kathmandu on August 5, 2017.  A Nepali transgender woman and a man registered their marriage, a first in the country, the couple said on August 5, despite an absence of laws legalising same-sex or transgender unions. Monika Shahi Nath, 40, who legally identifies as a third gender, married Ramesh Nath Yogi, 22, in May and was able to register it in their home district Dadeldhura in western Nepal last month. / AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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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.

This photo taken on August 23, 2017 shows Nepali transgender person Monika Shahi Nath (3rd L) with Laxmi Giri Nath (L), the first wife of her husband Ramesh Nath Yogi (3rd R), Ramesh's youngest daughter Nabin Nath (2nd), Ramesh's grandmother-in-law Parbati Devi Nath (C), Ramesh's father-in-law Bhawani Nath (2nd) and Ramesh's mother-in-law Sita Devi Nath (R) in Kain Pani village in Nepal's Dadeldhura district. Monika Shahi Nath, 40, became Nepal's first transgender person to be issued with a marriage certificate by district officials when she married 22-year-old Ramesh Nath Yogi in May, even though Nepal has no formal laws for such unions. The couple have found a rare acceptance in Nepal, where many transgender people still struggle to be open about their identity despite progressive laws that include a third gender option on identity cards and passports. / AFP PHOTO / Prakash MATHEMA / TO GO WITH Nepal-transgender-marriage-rights        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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“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.

This photo taken on August 22, 2017 shows Nepali transgender person Monika Shahi Nath Yogi (C) posing with her husband Ramesh Nath Yogi and his first wife Laxmi Nath Yogi (L) at Kain Pani village in Nepal's Dadeldhura district. Monika Shahi Nath, 40, became Nepal's first transgender person to be issued with a marriage certificate by district officials when she married 22-year-old Ramesh Nath Yogi in May, even though Nepal has no formal laws for such unions. The couple have found a rare acceptance in Nepal, where many transgender people still struggle to be open about their identity despite progressive laws that include a third gender option on identity cards and passports. / AFP PHOTO / Prakash MATHEMA / TO GO WITH Nepal-transgender-marriage-rights        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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“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.

This photo taken on August 3, 2017 shows Nepali transgender person Monika Shahi Nath and her husband Ramesh Nath Yogi holding their marriage certificate in Kathmandu. Monika Shahi Nath, 40, became Nepal's first transgender person to be issued with a marriage certificate by district officials when she married 22-year-old Ramesh Nath Yogi in May, even though Nepal has no formal laws for such unions. The couple have found a rare acceptance in Nepal, where many transgender people still struggle to be open about their identity despite progressive laws that include a third gender option on identity cards and passports. / AFP PHOTO / Prakash MATHEMA / TO GO WITH Nepal-transgender-marriage-rights        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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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.

This photo taken on August 3, 2017 shows Nepali transgender person Monika Shahi Nath and her husband Ramesh Nath Yogi posing for a picture in Kathmandu. Monika Shahi Nath, 40, became Nepal's first transgender person to be issued with a marriage certificate by district officials when she married 22-year-old Ramesh Nath Yogi in May, even though Nepal has no formal laws for such unions. The couple have found a rare acceptance in Nepal, where many transgender people still struggle to be open about their identity despite progressive laws that include a third gender option on identity cards and passports. / AFP PHOTO / Prakash MATHEMA / TO GO WITH Nepal-transgender-marriage-rights        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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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’.

More: Asia, Asia, gender, Law, LGBT rights, marriage, Nepal, Nepal, South East Asia, Taiwan, Trans, Transgender, wedding

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