Bhutan Decriminalizes Same-Sex Relations and Recognizes Existence of Homosexuality


10 December 2020

Media Contact: Daina Ruduša,, +1 (917) 622-1865

Bhutan Decriminalizes Same-Sex Relations and Recognizes Existence of Homosexuality

Today, Bhutan decriminalized same-sex relations in a sitting of both houses of Parliament. Both houses of parliament voted in favor of amending articles 213 and 214 of the Penal Code which criminalized “unnatural sex.” While they didn’t specifically mention homosexuality, Articles 213 and 214 were widely interpreted as prohibiting same-sex relations. The amendment passed with a vote of 63 of the total 69 members of Parliament. The newly adopted amendment does not repeal the provision entirely, but clarifies that “homosexuality between adults shall not be considered unnatural sex.”   

Once approved and signed into law by the King of Bhutan, the total number of countries which still criminalize same-sex relations will decrease to 66.

Executive Director of OutRight Action International, Jessica Stern, comments:

“For too long, the human rights of LGBTIQ people have not been recognized. Today, Bhutan chose to tell a different story and create a different future for itself. The decriminalization of homosexuality in Bhutan is a huge achievement. It is both a testament to the perseverance of the LGBTIQ movement in Bhutan, and a source of inspiration for LGBTIQ movements across the continent and the world where such laws are still in effect. What wonderful news to receive especially today, Human Rights Day, further confirming that LGBTIQ rights are human rights.”

Aatish Gurung, a Women Deliver Young Leader from Bhutan, comments:

"The adopted amendment not only decriminalizes same-sex relations, but by specifically mentioning homosexuality also acknowledges the existence of LGBTIQ people in Bhutan. After years of work, this is great news for LGBTIQ people in Bhutan!"

Decriminalization of homosexuality is happening around the world. In July 2020 the Senate of Gabon voted to reverse criminalization of same-sex relations which had been introduced 2019. A colonial-era ban was overturned in the High Court in Botswana in June 2019. However, in March 2020 the High Court in Singapore dismissed challenges to its ban on same-sex relations and in May 2019 the High Court in Kenya ruled to maintain a colonial era ban on same-sex relations.



OutRight Action International works at a global, regional and national level to eradicate the persecution, inequality, and violence lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people face around the world. From its offices in 7 countries and headquarters in New York, OutRight builds capacity of LGBTIQ movements, documents human rights violations, advocates for inclusion and equality, and holds leaders accountable for protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people everywhere. OutRight has recognized consultative status at the United Nations.