Rights activists have hailed the decriminalizing of homosexuality in Bhutan. (Image: Unsplash)
The parliament of Bhutan has approved a bill to legalize homosexuality, making the tiny Himalayan kingdom the latest Asian country to lift restrictions on same-sex relationships.
In a joint sitting, both houses of Bhutan’s bicameral parliament on Dec. 10 voted overwhelmingly in favor of scrapping Sections 213 and 214 of the country’s Penal Code of 2004 that criminalize “unnatural sex”.
Lawmaker Ugyen Wangdi told Reuters that 63 out of 69 members of both houses voted in favor of repealing the provision and six members were absent.
The bill was first moved to the Bhutanese parliament’s lower house in June and passed, triggering jubilation among the LGBT community in the largely Buddhist country of some 775,000 people.
The changes will become law once approved by the king of Bhutan.
Rights activists have hailed the decriminalizing of homosexuality in Bhutan as there was general acceptance of gay and transgender people despite some discrimination in schools.
Bhutan is the second South Asian country to legalize same-sex relationships after neighboring India, which repealed the centuries-old British colonial-era criminalization of homosexuality in 2018.
Nepal’s government has decided to include LGBT people in the national census from next year in order to offer them better access to education and health services.
The rights of same-sex communities have become a major movement in the West in recent times and several countries in Europe, Americas and Asia have legalized homosexuality with an effort to end discrimination and offer equal rights for sexual minorities.
Traditionalists and religious conservatives have strongly opposed same-sex relationships.
The Catholic Church has also maintained its long-standing opposition to same-sex relationships and legalization, terming it “against the rule of nature” as “God created us as men and women.”
However, Pope Francis recently made headlines when he apparently voiced support for same-sex civil unions in a documentary, which many viewed as a shift in the Vatican’s 2003 statement of opposing any legal recognition of homosexual unions.