Bhutan has taken a bold step towards equality during 'Pride Month' (June). During the 3rd reading of the Penal Code Amendment Bill 2019 held on 7 June 2019 in Bhutan, Sections 213 and 214 that criminalised ‘unnatural sex’ have been removed.
The Finance Minister, Namgay Tshering brought up the need to remove the sections during the initial reading. He subsequently gave it in writing to the Legislative Committee which agreed to remove the sections as well.
Before the introduction of the removal of the sections, Bongo Chapchha MP Tshewang Lhamo, the Chairperson of the Legislative Committee said,
“A lot of people are affected in our society because of Sections 213 and 214. We must understand that laws need to be changed as per the changing times. Everyone should have the freedom of choice. We only consider male preferring female and vis-à-vis as natural, and anything beyond that as unnatural.
People must know that everyone is equal before the law irrespective of who they are. This particular Section 213 discriminates against a section of people and this is the reason why our committee has come up with a proposal to remove this section.”
It may be mentioned that 90 percent of the parliamentarians who were present during the discussion approved to remove the sections.
The National Assembly has passed the Penal Code Amendment Bill 2019 with 38 yes votes, 5 absentations and 1 voted against it on Monday, 10 June 2019.
This means that among other things, the provision removing Sections 213 and 214 which criminalises ‘unnatural sex’ and homosexuality have been formally approved by the NA.
The Bill will go to the National Council (Upper House) for the winter session in six months where it will become law once it has been passed.
Bhutan is currently one of the 72 countries in the world that has legal sections that criminalises homosexuality. With this move Bhutan is a step closer to removing the sections.
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