The Parliament Of Bhutan Decriminalises Homosexuality

The Bhutan Parliament adopted the Penal Code Bill of 2019 and decriminalised homosexuality conduct between two consenting adults.

Vaishnavi Navalkar

December 14, 2020

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On Thursday, the Bhutan Parliament decriminalised homosexual conduct between two consenting adults. The legislation was tabled before the Assembly and the National Council during a joint sitting of the bicameral legislature this year. Section 213 of the Penal Code of Bhutan decriminalised unnatural sex which refers to any person who engages in sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature. The crime was deemed to be a petty misdemeanour, the punishment for which could extend up to a year as per Section 214 of the Penal Code. Although there was no explicit mention of homosexuality, the provision of unnatural sex was widely taken to refer to homosexual conduct between two adults.

The vice-chairperson of a joint panel Lawmaker Ugyen Wangdi said,”63 of the total 69 members of both houses of parliament had voted in favour of amending the code to scrap the provision. Six members were absent.” He also said that Homosexuality will not be considered as unnatural sex now. However, the changes still need to be approved by the King of Bhutan, to become a law.

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Rights activist Tashi Tsheten said he was thrilled and really happy over the parliamentary move, calling it a victory for the LGBT+ community. The director of LGBT+ Group, Rainbow Bhutan, Tshene said,” think the bill being passed on Human Rights Day itself is a momentous day for everyone in Bhutan. I believe everyone who has stood up for the community in Bhutan is going to celebrate today as this is our victory.”

The move by the majority Buddhist nation came after other Asian countries relaxed restrictions on the rights of the LGBT+ community. The authorities in Nepal will count LGBT+ people for the first time in the National census next year, to help sexual minorities gain better access to education and health schemes.

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