LGBTQ rights in Bhutan: Lawmakers vote to decriminalise same-sex relations

The amendment in question changes two articles of the criminal code to clarify that "homosexuality between adults shall not be considered unnatural sex."

After the amendment of an existing law, Bhutan’s Parliament has voted to decriminalise same-sex relations. The previous law penalised what it deemed “unnatural sex.”

The amendment was approved Thursday, December 10, by 63 out of 69 lawmakers. Six of them abstained from voting. For the amendment to become a law, it needs to be approved by Bhutan’s king.

The amendment in question changes two articles of the criminal code to clarify that “homosexuality between adults shall not be considered unnatural sex.” Engaging in prohibited sexual conduct could land one in prison for up to a year.

“I haven’t stopped smiling since yesterday. I am eagerly awaiting His Majesty’s assent,” The New Indian Express quoted Tashi Tsheten, a Bhutanese activist who has worked to change the law, as saying.

According to him, after years of stigma and discrimination, the amendment will allow LGBTIQ people in Bhutan to lead a better, more dignified life.

In a statement, Jessica Stern, executive director of the activist group OutRight Action International, said that the vote in Bhutan was a “huge achievement.”

“For too long, the human rights of LGBTIQ people have not been recognised. Today, Bhutan chose to tell a different story and create a different future for itself,” Stern said.

“It is both a testament to the perseverance of the LGBTIQ movement in Bhutan, and a source of inspiration for LGBTIQ movements across the continent and the world where such laws are still in effect,” she said.

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