LGBT’S RIGHTS IN BHUTAN

Business Bhutan - - Editorial - YESHEY CHODEN The writer is a sec­ond year English stu­dent at RTC, Thim­phu. The writer is a sec­ond year English Stu­dent at RTC, Thim­phu.

The peo­ple around the world are dif­fer­ent in terms of cul­ture, re­li­gion and be­hav­iour. Peo­ple are also dif­fer­ent in terms of gen­der iden­tity. Gen­der iden­tity means be­ing a male or fe­male. LGBT (les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der) are some­times cat­e­go­rized as a third gen­der. In Bhutan, the is­sue of LGBT is a taboo as much as sex ed­u­ca­tion in fam­i­lies and schools. As a re­sult, the is­sue about their ex­is­tence and rights is for­got­ten or ne­glected. The Royal Gov­ern­ment of Bhutan should give em­pha­sis on the rights of Bhutanese LGBT. Un­like other coun­tries, is­sue of LGBT is not dis­cussed openly most of the time in Bhutan. Many Bhutanese were un­aware about LGBT’s ex­is­tence in Bhutan un­til 2013. In fact, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was con­sid­ered as il­le­gal ac­cord­ing to the Pe­nal Code of Bhutan. As per the ar­ti­cle 213, the Pe­nal Code of Bhutan states, “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.” It is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand the ac­tual mean­ing of it. 2013 was a piv­otal year where we saw the vis­i­bil­ity of LGBT in Bhutan. Few peo­ple took a bold step and came out to re­veal their iden­ti­ties as LGBT such as karma Dupchen, Dechen Sel­don and Pema Dorji. This is­sue was dis­cussed in past years through news­pa­pers and BBS. But at what level has this dis­cus­sion reached to­day? Is the gov­ern­ment still work­ing on it? Bhutan is a re­li­gious coun­try. Some may con­sider be­ing a LGBT as a sin. How­ever, in 2015, Dzongsar Khyentse Rin­poche said that as a Bhutanese one should not tol­er­ate gay as they are but re­spect them. He even high­lighted that sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion has noth­ing to do who will reach en­light­en­ment. There are rea­sons for Bhutanese LGBT hid­ing their true iden­ti­ties. Firstly, they suf­fer from the fear of so­ci­etal judg­ment, which even­tu­ally make them alien­ated from the so­ci­ety. Se­condly, there is fear re­gard­ing their fam­ily’s rep­u­ta­tion when their iden­tity comes out as LGBT. Thirdly, there are cases of be­ing bul­lied and mocked at by friends around. For in­stance, in 2015, in con­ver­sa­tion with UNAIDS (United na­tions pro­grammes on HIV/AIDS), Pema Dorji, who was a LGBT shared how he was ver­bally abused, bul­lied, called ‘chakka’, an In­dian slang term for fem­i­nine guys, and suf­fered a ner­vous break­down. As a Bhutanese, we should ac­cept LGBT as our own peo­ple. It is not only gov­ern­ment’s duty to help them in giv­ing their rights, but also our duty as a cit­i­zen. To ac­cept their ex­is­tence in our so­ci­ety as­sures a way of giv­ing rights to them as LGBT. More­over, it is not their choice to be a LGBT but it is the re­sult of bi­o­log­i­cal or hor­monal fac­tor. There­fore, we should re­spect these peo­ple and help them to feel that they are a part of our Bhutanese so­ci­ety.

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