Bhutan mulls axing anti-gay law

The Himalayan country’s penal code punishes gay sex with up to one year in prison

The Kingdom of Bhutan is considering decriminalizing gay sex as it looks to revise its Penal Code.

The mountainous South Asian nation of 700,000 currently criminalizes gay sex.

Articles 213 and 214 of the 2004 Penal Code punish same-sex sexual acts with between one month and one year in prison.

Article 213 outlaws ‘unnatural sex, if the defendant engages in sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature’.

But, local LGBTI group, Rainbow Bhutan, the National Assembly may change this in a penal code amendment bill.

Finance minister Namgay Tshering recommended the assembly amend the ‘unnatural sex’ laws, according to Kuensel.

A legislative committee has accepted his recommendation. The committee will hold consutlations over the next few days, Tashi Tsheten, Director of Rainbow Bhutan, told Gay Star News.

‘We have a lot of hope that the law will be amended or removed’ he also said.

‘It would mean that the community can finally be happy in Bhutan knowing that their existence is acknowledged.’

LGBTI life in Bhutan
Bhutan is a Buddhist nation and is famous for its pursuit of peace and harmony among its population.

The country has a Gross National Happiness commission that strives for the wellbeing of its population.

But, the vast majority of Bhutanese know little about the LGBTI community.

‘We believe that [most Bhutanese] never had the proper access to information and have never seen a LGBT+ personally’ Tashi Tsheten said.

The Integrated Biological and Behavioral Surveillance (IBBS) survey revealed a high number of LGBTI people have attempted suicide.

The survey also found that a shocking 70% of the LGBTI population resorts to drug and alcohol use to deal with discrimination and stigma.

But, in 2015, the country’s most prominent Buddhist teacher said Bhutanese should respect people with different orientations.

The Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party has also expressed support for LGBT rights.

Last year, Bhutanese gay couple Deyon Phuntsho and Tenzin Gyeltshen went public with their relationship.

They told media their family and friends warmly welcomed them.

by Rik Glauert
Source – Gay Star News