A joint session of the two houses of Bhutan’s parliament on Thursday approved a bill to legalize gay sex, making the tiny Himalayan kingdom the last Asian nation to take steps to ease restrictions on relations between same-sex people The information is from CNN.
Sections 213 and 214 of the penal code criminalized “unnatural sex”, widely interpreted as homosexuality.
Legislator Ugyen Wangdi, the vice president of a joint panel that considers the changes, said 63 out of a total of 69 members from both houses of parliament voted in favor of amending the code to eliminate the provision. Six members were absent.
“Homosexuality will not be considered unnatural sex now”, Wangdi told Reuters by telephone from Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, without giving details.
The changes still need to be approved by the King of Bhutan to become a law.
Human rights activist Tashi Tsheten said he was “thrilled and very happy” about the parliamentary action, calling it a “victory” for the LGBT+ community.
“I think the bill passed on Human Rights Day itself is an important day for everyone in Bhutan”, Tsheten, director of the LGBT+ group, Rainbow Bhutan, told Reuters.
“I believe that everyone who stood up for the LGBT+ community in Bhutan will celebrate today, as this is our victory.”
The 800,000-person Buddhist nation change comes after other Asian countries relaxed restrictions on the rights of LGBT+ people.
Neighboring India removed a colonial ban on centuries of gay sex in 2018, sparking celebration across the country.
In Nepal, officials will count LGBT+ people for the first time in next year’s national census to help sexual minorities gain better access to education and health programs.
Bhutan is famous for its “gross national happiness” index as an alternative to gross domestic product to indicate real economic progress or development.