The Penal code of Bhutan doesn’t specifically criminalize same-sex act or as LGBTI individual but the Penal Code of Bhutan in its Article 213 states “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of unnatural sex, if the defendant engages on sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature” and Article 214 “The offence of unnatural sex shall be a petty misdemeanor” (prison term up to one year) is considered a barrier in the country for the concerned individuals.
The law doesn’t specify “order of nature” and there are no reportedly known cases of anyone having ever been charged with this misdemeanor. Despite the Article 213, the Health Policy document such as the National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS does include strategic interventions and plans to reach out to the LGBTI community and to improve access to health services.
Due to the common stereotypes in popular culture, ignorance on homosexuality is found to be common. Bhutanese don’t share the concept of homosexuality and heterosexuality as they do in western countries, but there seems to be an increased understanding of the concept due to exposure to western cultures and social media around the globe. Transgender people are more likely to be open about their identity and appear to be less socially isolated. Amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) there are high levels of internalized homophobia but family isolation is found to be less common.
Political situation: The Royal Government of Bhutan has been a Constitutional Monarchy since 18 July 2008. The King of Bhutan is the head of the state; Executive Power is exercised by Lhengye Zhungtshog, or Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister. Legislative Power is vested in the bicameral Parliament, both the upper National Council and the lower National Assembly.
General LGBTI situation:
Although Bhutanese people seem to be accepting of LGBT individuals, they still need to be educated on the LGBT community and related health issues.
Legalizing same sex marriage in Bhutan appears to be non-existent at present but people do feel the need to review the rights of LGBTI community in Bhutan. A report by the Health Ministry, “Formative Assessment on Stigma and Discrimination Impacting Universal Access to HIV and Health Services for Men who have sex with Men and Transgender in Bhutan,” states that the LGBT community in Bhutan is under the pressure of the law criminalizing same-sex behaviors in Bhutan. The report also states “despite the existing law criminalizing same-sex sexual behaviors has never been used in Bhutan, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) people revealed concerns and fears of being reported to local authorities and prosecuted if they disclose their sexual orientation”.
Although Bhutanese people seem to be accepting of LGBTI individuals, they still need to be educated on the LGBTI community.
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