After Deyon Phuntsho and his partner Tenzin Gyeltshen came out publicly about their gay status in the last week’s issue of The Bhutanese, the couple said that they have been receiving positive responses from their friends since then. “After the story went viral, we’ve been receiving calls, video calls and messages from our friends on social media, wishing us well and applauding us for our bravery and faith,” said Deyon Phuntsho.
Deyon said that it is important that acceptance should first start from within by being comfortable with who you are. “It is not important to come out and tell the world that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; what is important is to accept yourself first. Everyone is talented and special, and you are no exception. Don’t worry about coming out. Just be who you are, people who truly care for you will always love you because you have that same unwavering beautiful soul,” he said.
The biggest support for the gay couple came from their respective parents who not only accepted the sexuality of their sons but also supported the relationship. This support system encouraged them to go public.
Although there are no laws that explicitly prohibit same-sex sexual activity in the country, 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, although it is 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 until date.
Article 213 of the Penal Code of Bhutan, states that 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. And article 214 states that the offence of unnatural sex shall be a petty misdemeanor.
LGBT activists in other countries have argued for such laws to be struck down or amended. A similar law is being challenged in the Supreme Court in India.
Through the UNDP mapping and size estimation of forthcoming individuals, it is estimated that 9,105 men have sex with men in Bhutan. The population of transgender people is still not available. However, many of the respondents who’ve been surveyed expressed that such discussions still remained highly sensitive and felt that any more public emphasis through awareness or health campaigns could in turn instigate criticism from society.