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Nepal Court Rules for Gay Rights

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal's top court ruled Friday that the government must create new laws to protect gay rights and change current ones that might be tantamount to discrimination, an official said.

The Supreme Court issued the order in this conservative Himalayan kingdom after hearing a petition filed by four gay activist groups seeking greater rights for homosexuals, said court spokesman Til Prasad Shrestha.

Shrestha indicated it is up to the government to determine how the ruling should be implemented. It was not immediately clear whether the ruling overturns current laws banning homosexuality or whether the government would be compelled to recognize same-sex marriages.

Homosexual acts are punishable in Hindu-majority Nepal by up to two years in prison.

A government representative could not immediately be contacted.

Sunil Pant of the Blue Diamond Society, the country's main gay rights group, said it was a bold decision by the highest court in Nepal, where homosexuals frequently face harassment, including by police.

"It was an extremely positive decision and a pleasant surprise for us. It would set a precedent for other conservative countries like Nepal," Pant told The Associated Press.

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