Two women became the first couple to have a Buddhist same-sex wedding in Taiwan today, in a move that human rights group hope will propel the island towards becoming the first Asian nation to legalise gay marriage.

Fish Huang and You Ya-ting , who have been together for seven years, exchanged vow and prayer beads instead of rings at a monastery in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, accompanied by chants from nearly 300 Buddhists.

Shih Chao-hwei, a Buddhist master and university professor, offered to perform the ceremony herself after the couple approached her to ask if their faith condemned homosexuality.

Fish Huang told the Taipei Times last month: ‘We are not only doing it for ourselves, but also for other gays and lesbians.’

The couple’s families did not attend the ceremony after initially agreeing to be there, reportedly to avoid media attention.

The first public gay marriage in Taiwan took place in 1996 but this is the first known Buddhist wedding.

Gay rights groups are pushing for President Ma Ying-jeou to legislate for same-sex marriage and to allow gay couples to adopt before his term ends in 2016.