Bhutan: National Assembly takes a big step towards decriminalizing Homosexuality

In what could be a historic moment for Bhutan, the Legislative Committee of the National Assembly is looking to drop section 213 and 214 of the Penal Code of Bhutan that criminalizes ‘unnatural sex’ and also prescribes a punishment for it. A member of the Legislative Committee, on the condition of anonymity, said that the MPs in the committee are all in favour of dropping the section after a written suggestion to this effect is given by the Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering.

Section 213 under the Bhutan Penal Code 2004 says, ‘A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of unnatural sex, if the defendant engages in sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature.’ This is followed up by section 214 which says, ‘The offence of unnatural sex shall be a petty misdemeanor.’

When the Amendment Bill 2019 of the Penal Code of Bhutan was introduced on 29th May by the Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, Bongo-Chapcha MP Tshewang Lhamo, the removal of these two sections was not proposed in the bill. However, the Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering during the discussions got up and said that section 213 on unnatural sex should change to keep up with the times.

Lyonpo said, “My primary reason is that this section is there since 2004 but it has become so redundant and has never been enforced. It is also an eyesore for international human rights bodies.”

The minister pointed out that even among donors the issue of the third gender and other issues were important. The Finance Minister said that he was not trying to encourage homosexuality but that a redundant law that is an eyesore for the international community should be removed from the penal code. The minister pointed to international developments of India whose Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality and Taiwan which is the first Asian country to allow same sex marriage.

Once the Legislative Committee presents the new amendment to the National Assembly, a vote by simple majority will decide if section 213 and 214 are removed. After that the Bill will head to the upper house or the National Council which will deliberate on the issue and they will have a vote on the issue before the bill can become law. Read more via the Bhutanese

NA endorses CCPC (amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2019

With 43 Yes votes and a lone No vote, the National Assembly yesterday endorsed the amendment of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC) Bill of Bhutan 2019. The Bill would now be forwarded to National Council.

While deliberating on the amendment Bill, the Bongo-Chapcha’s member of parliament, who is the committee chairperson, Tshewang Lhamo, read the sections for amendment.

Members deliberated on the eight sections of the CCPC proposed for amendment by the legislative committee and inclusion of two new sections. Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi was the only member who voted No. He said while he supports 80 percent of the amendment, he was not comfortable inserting the new clause defining a police officer to include forest officers, immigration officials, customs officials and other law enforcement officers, who exercise the power of police by the virtue of their work nature.

Read more via Kuensel