LGBT rights in Bhutan

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LGBT rights in Bhutan Bhutan
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal[1]
Discrimination protections No
Family rights
Recognition of
Adoption No

The rights of LGBT people in Bhutan are unrecognized by law. Ignorance about homosexuality is common due to stereotypes in popular culture.[2] Bhutanese culture does not share the typical Western view of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Some have referred to it as an openly bisexual society, although this is disputed.[3] Women are more likely than men to be open about their sexual orientation.[4] There are cultural and traditional struggles for those who seek acceptance.[5]

Homosexuality is illegal in Bhutan in the penal code of Bhutan (Art. 213 & 214), which was introduced by the British during the colonial period, and is punishable by a prison sentence of between one month to less than one year.[1] There are reportedly no known cases of anyone having ever been charged with this misdemeanor, however, activists from around the world have been pushing for the code's amendment to fully establish Bhutan's positive human rights record. No parliamentarian has filed an anti-discrimination bill based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression in Bhutan yet, despite called from Bhutanese head monks.[citation needed]

Buddhism, the main religion of Bhutan does not condemn homosexuality. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Bhutan's most prominent Buddhist teacher has said that sexual orientation has nothing to do with who will reach enlightenment.

Bhutan Observer, one of the country's main weekly newspapers, has written a significant number of articles on LGBT issues which elicited a lot of interest making them the most commented articles on the paper's website.[6] The government-supported newspaper Kuensel, meanwhile, has referred to gays as being the "Third Gender" in an article discussing HIV programmes targeted towards gay men.[7]

The United States Department of State issues this warning to LGBT travelers to Bhutan: "Although there are no laws that explicitly prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity, laws against “sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature” exist. Under the penal code, a person can be imprisoned for as long as one year for engaging in such acts. One government official noted that prosecution under this law is rare, as criminal intent must be proven by the prosecution. There have been no reported cases of such charges."[8]

Public opinion[edit]

One of the first homosexuality opinion polls in Bhutan carried out by an exchange student at the Royal Thimphu College on campus with 150 participants resulted in the following responses in 2013. 60% of the respondents believed that homosexuality is immoral and 40% believed that homosexuality should be accepted and homosexuals protected from discrimination and harm. However, with only 150 participants and all of which were within a single area, the validity of the poll to be used as a national basis is very lacking.[9]

Recognition of same-sex couples[edit]

Currently, Bhutan does not provide any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Emblem-question.svg
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians Emblem-question.svg
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes[10] According to the Bhutan Medical and Health Council, anyone in good health aged at least 18 years and weighing at least 45kg (100 lbs) may donate. Until recently, there have been few restrictions on blood donations in Bhutan.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b State-sponsored Homophobia A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults
  2. ^ "Bhutan's underground gay community seeks acceptance". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Bhutan, Asia
  4. ^ "". Retrieved 31 December 2014.  External link in |title= (help)
  5. ^ "More equal or less equal?". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Wangmo, Phuntsho (2008-12-19). "How Gay Are Bhutanese Gays?". Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2017-04-14. 
  7. ^ Pelden, Sonam (2011-11-28). "Healthcare for the third gender". Kuensel online. Retrieved 2011-11-28. 
  8. ^ "Bhutan- Threats to Safety and Security". United States Department of State online. Archived from the original on 28 March 2008. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  9. ^ "Bhutan's underground gay community seeks acceptance". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Who can be a blood donor?". Retrieved 1 January 2015.