A quiet LGBTIQ revolution in Bhutan and the international situation

The practice of discrimination and stigmatization among the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Intersex, questioning (LGBTIQ) community was and is a challenging issue worldwide.

The topic itself is challenging to discuss in the first place and even after doing so, what the community faced was discrimination, name calling and they were made fun of for being couples of the same sex and were looked down upon for changing their gender identity.

Advocating to people and lobbying for polices to protect them was the only the solution the community found to get recognition and the same rights like any other human. 

Executive Director of Pride Bhutan Tenzin Gyeltshen said that situation on LGBT was different when it was first introduced in Bhutan. They were hesitant to talk about the topic and even when they did gathering all their courage, they were discriminated against and they were looked down upon.

“The situation was awkward during those days because everyone would laugh on their gender identity and the LGBT people would be the talk of the town when they are seen walking around. They would hide and they will not want to avail the services due to the stigmatization,” he added.

However, with awareness and education on LGBT, things are changing and they are now more comfortable and open as the society has started accepting them. Things are changing but it still is challenging for the group, he said, adding that people need to be kept informed and educated on the matter.

Things have become easier for them, in terms of availing services and how society looks at them. Parents have started accepting their child as who they are and their relationship with the same sex, he stated.

He said, “We don’t know how people would talk from behind, but in the front their behavior towards the group is positive which makes things much more comfortable and that way we can discuss our issues openly and address it at the earliest.”

Meanwhile, Head of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit of the Council of Europe, Ms. Eleni Tsetsekou shared that LGBT is one of the most controversial topics to discuss and also this is one topic which concerns everybody because this is not about the minority, it is something that could be confronted in some point in our life too.

“This is still a taboo is some societies but it is so present in the human history that no one can just simply close their eyes and be ignorant to the community and give them no rights,” she added.

Sexual orientation and gender identity itself is discrimination to which they can’t be ignorant. Everyone has their rights and those rights are coupled with the prohibition of discrimination and thereby no one should be discriminated irrespective of sex, color, language or so on, she said.

LGTB person are not asking for special rights, they are asking for equal recognition and equal access to the rights without any discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The awareness program on LGBT is there in all the member states under the Council of Europe and countries advance on their own rhythm, but the basic awareness of dealing with human rights issue is there.

She said, “The suicide and depression rate is high among the community and that is why they are reworking a lot with the education sector to create awareness to protect the children as maximum members from the community are youths.”

Behind the community is the personal story and it is must be talked about. If shared, the situation can be addressed to a certain extent. It is important to talk about the common values, because everyone is associated at some point, she added.

Nearly half of the member states in European Council already have legislative framework ensuring legal gender recognition for transgender persons and more than half have also recognized the same sex family.

They have a policy recommendation documents which explains to the member states on how they should do it in order to ensure equal rights to LGBTIQ people according to the Europe standard.

She said, “We are working closely with the government at the national and local level to help them reform the policies, to review the legislation and train the civil servants and police officers who will have interaction with the LGBT citizens.”

They are now developing seminars and training targeting certain groups of people and coordinate with other international organizations in order to have more coherent discussions.

The LGBTIQ people are free from criminalization since 1952 in Europe and this is one condition to enter the Council of Europe.

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