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.
The writer is a second year English student at RTC, Thimphu.
YESHEY CHODEN – The writer is a second year English Student at RTC, Thimphu.