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Bhutan mulls axing anti-gay law

Bhutan is a small, mountainous, predominantly-Buddhist nation in South Asia (Photo: Flickr)

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, according to local media, 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.

Local LGBTI group, Rainbow Bhutan, welcomed the news.

‘The time for change has come and we are glad to be a part of it’ the group wrote on Twitter.

‘The removal of Section 213 and 214 from the Penal Code of Bhutan will ensure that our constitutional rights are upheld and respected and it will ensuring that no one is truly left behind.’

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.

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 they were warmly welcomed by their family and friends.

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Author: Rik Glauert