Nepal Gay Rally

Participants dance in a Gay Pride rally in Katmandu, Nepal, in 2013. Gay and lesbian couples may soon be able to marry, adopt, buy joint property and enjoy other rights traditionally denied to them under the country's laws. Pic: AP

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Hundreds of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites are parading through Nepal’s capital to celebrate Gaijatra, a Hindu festival gleefully overtaken each year by the country’s gay community and cheered by onlookers.

Thousands of Nepalese lined the cobblestoned streets of Katmandu’s old city Monday to catch a glimpse of those parading, some carrying banners or rainbow-colored balloons, others tooting horns and ringing chimes.

In the socially conservative Hindu-majority nation, the festival was traditionally the only day people felt free to cross-dress. But norms are changing fast as this fledgling Himalayan democracy emerges from centuries of religious monarchy.

A government committee is recommending same-sex marriage be guaranteed in a new constitution, giving gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt, buy joint property, open joint bank accounts and inherit from one another.