Kingdom of Bhutan finally votes to make gay sex legal

Kingdom of Bhutan finally votes to make gay sex legal
Bhutan.

The parliament of Bhutan has approved a bill to legalize gay sex.

A joint sitting of both houses of Bhutan’s parliament – the Gyelyong Tshokhang – voted 63 to 69 in favor of changing the law.

The isolated Asian country in the Himalayas had previously criminalized ‘unnatural sex’ under Sections 213 and 214 of its Penal Code. The authorities have long interpreted that as a ban on homosexuality.

Lawmaker Ugyen Wangdi, the vice chairperson of a joint panel considering the changes, told Reuters: ‘Homosexuality will not be considered as unnatural sex now.’

Meanwhile Tashi Tsheten, director of LGBT+ organization Rainbow Bhutan, said he was ‘thrilled and really happy’ by the ‘victory’ for LGBT+ people.

He welcomed the vote yesterday saying: ‘I 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 LGBT+ community in Bhutan is going to celebrate today as this is our victory.’

The vote now just needs to be confirmed by Bhutan’s king – Dragon King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck – to become law.

Could marriage equality improve Gross National Happiness?

LGBT+ people in the isolated mountain country of 800,000 have no anti-discrimination protections.

However, there are also few reports of violence and overt discrimination. This may be because incidents are not reported. Meanwhile, many Bhutanese don’t understand LGBT+ people and they are almost invisible in public life.

Despite this, most Bhutanese are Buddhists and their religion doesn’t openly condemn homosexuality as some other faiths do.

Now campaigners may hope decriminalization of homosexuality may lead to other victories. A bill to make marriage law gender neutral – therefore opening it to same-sex couples – was tabled in parliament in 2018.

It was deferred due to the 2018 Bhutanese National Assembly election but may now make progress.

Notably, the country pioneered the idea of ‘Gross National Happiness’ rather than the economic measure of ‘Gross Domestic Product’ to monitor its success.

However, critics say Bhutanese authorities have used this as a mask for regressive policies and it hasn’t materially improved the life of most citizens.

Unique Bhutan

Bhutan building decorated with phallic images.
Lucky penises in Bhutan. Once In A Lifetime Journey

If decriminalization has inspired you to visit Bhutan, you will see a unique culture and meet a very welcoming people.

You may be surprised to see ornate phallic images decorating buildings – these penis illustrations drive away evil spirits and bring good luck.

One way Bhutan is bringing all of us good luck is its forests. They cover 70% of the country. And they absorb so much carbon that Bhutan is making a net contribution to tackling climate change. It is thought to be the only ‘carbon negative’ nation in the world.

This is probably helped by the fact that many journeys in Bhutan’s mountains are only possible on foot. Some aren’t possible even then. Among its mountains is Gangkhar Puensum – the tallest unclimbed peak in the world.

But there are so few vehicles that Bhutan doesn’t have any traffic lights.

Even in the capital Thimphu, police keep traffic moving by standing at intersections giving hand signals. When they did once install traffic lights in Thimphu, locals complained they were ugly and asked for the traffic cops to return.

However, if you are going to visit, it will cost you. The country applies a policy of ‘high value, low impact tourism’. That means they charge tourists a minimum fee of $200 to $250 per night, to ensure having a small number of tourists has a big impact on the economy.

[Syndicated Content]

Published on GayStarNews Read the original article

Author: Tris Reid-Smith

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